NZ, France to launch call to end online extremism

French President Emmanuel Macron welcoming New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Paris yesterday. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
French President Emmanuel Macron welcoming New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Paris yesterday. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PARIS • Facebook announced yesterday it would tighten access to its livestreaming feature as New Zealand Premier Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron prepared to launch the global "Christchurch Call" initiative to tackle the spread of extremism online.

"It's an action plan, it's the start of something," Ms Ardern told CNN in an interview yesterday.

Many countries have already tightened legislation to introduce penalties for companies that fail to take down offensive content once it is flagged by the authorities.

"We need to get in front of this (problem) before harm is done," Ms Ardern added. "This is not just about regulation, but bringing companies to the table and saying they have a role too."

Ms Ardern and Mr Macron were set to issue the Christchurch Call along with leaders from Britain, Canada, Norway, Jordan and Senegal, who were also in Paris.

The largely symbolic initiative is intended to keep up the pressure on social media companies, which face growing calls from politicians across the world to stop their platforms from being abused.

The Christchurch Call comes after a self-described white supremacist gunned down 51 people at two Christchurch mosques in March and broadcast live footage of the violence on Facebook from a head-mounted camera

"I've spoken to Mark Zuckerberg directly twice now... and he did give Facebook's support for this call to action," Ms Ardern said.

The social media titan said yesterday it would ban Facebook Live users who shared extremist content and seek to reinforce its own internal controls to stop the spread of offensive videos.

"Following the horrific recent terrorist attacks in New Zealand, we've been reviewing what more we can do to limit our services from being used to cause harm or spread hate," Facebook's vice-president of integrity, Mr Guy Rosen, said.

A "one-strike" policy at Facebook Live will be applied to a broader range of offences, with those who violate serious policies suspended from using the feature after a single offence.

The political meeting in Paris will run in parallel to an initiative launched by Mr Macron called "Tech for Good", which will bring together 80 tech chiefs to discuss how to harness technologies for the common good.

The heads of United States tech giants Wikipedia, Uber, Twitter, Microsoft and Google will attend, but not Mr Zuckerberg, who held private one-to-one talks with Mr Macron last week.

The social network giant will instead be represented by its vice-president for global affairs and communications, Mr Nick Clegg, the former British deputy premier.

The US government has not endorsed the Christchurch Call and will be represented only at a junior level at a meeting of G-7 digital ministers, which was also set to take place yesterday in Paris.

A French presidential source said it was time for tech companies to "anticipate how their features will be exploited".

Firms themselves will be urged to come up with concrete measures, the source said, such as by restricting live broadcasting to social media accounts whose owners have been identified.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 16, 2019, with the headline 'NZ, France to launch call to end online extremism'. Print Edition | Subscribe