Tech giants pledge to fight ‘extremist’ content online

New Zealand PM Jacinda Adern has led a campaign against online ‘extremism’ since Christchurch attack was live-streamed.

Adren Macron France tech summit Reuters
French President Emmanuel Macron and New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have joined forces to fight online 'extremism' [Charles Platiau/Reuters]

The world’s most well-known technology companies have agreed to fight violent and “extremist” online content on several new fronts.

Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter adopted a nine-point action plan at a summit with world leaders in Paris on Wednesday.

The “Christchurch Call to Action”, spearheaded by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, comes exactly two months after the deadly attack on mosques in Christchurch, in which 51 people were killed.

The attack was live-streamed on Facebook – and the footage was widely shared – sparking wide-ranging condemnation of social media networks’ ability to control the content shared on their platforms.

“The terrorist attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March were a horrifying tragedy. And so, it is right that we come together, resolute in our commitment to ensure we are doing all we can to fight the hatred and extremism that lead to terrorist violence,” read a joint statement from the five companies.

“The Christchurch Call announced today expands on the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT), and builds on our other initiatives with government and civil society to prevent the dissemination of terrorist and violent extremist content.”

Arden welcomed the tech giants’ agreement after Facebook announced earlier in the day it would set new rules for its live-streaming feature.


“There is a lot more work to do, but I am pleased Facebook has taken additional steps today alongside the call and look forward to a long-term collaboration to make social media safer by removing terrorist content from it,” Arden said.

Facebook has been under particular fire as French officials sought greater regulation of the far-reaching network. Cofounder Mark Zuckerberg met French President Emmanuel Macron last week as a preliminary report into a “co-regulation” trial period suggested Facebook could not be trusted to regulate itself.

“The inadequacy and lack of credibility in the self-regulatory approach adopted by the largest platforms justify public intervention to make them more responsible,” the report said.

On Wednesday, the five companies at the Paris summit said they would collaborate to help eliminate “extremist” material from the internet.

“We are sharing concrete steps we will take that address the abuse of technology to spread terrorist content, including continued investment in technology that improves our capability to detect and remove this content from our services, updates to our individual terms of use, and more transparency for content policies and removals,” the joint statement said.


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While previous efforts to fight online “extremism” have not found great success, Macron said “the Christchurch Call is different”.

“For the past two years, we have started having exchanges with tech companies and heads of state – but we want to go further, and the aim of the Christchurch Call is to be more specific about removing the content online,” he told a press conference.

“We decided to widen it around the world, also we are setting a common framework for international companies to fight against terrorism – as a result… it’s now a global, worldwide initiative. As far as the method is concerned, we have tech firms and civil society, but also a political hue.”

Adern agreed. “We [now] have tech companies and countries,” she said. “In the past, we’ve had one, but not the other.”

The distribution of “extremist” content will now be expressly prohibited by the terms and conditions of use agreements which users must agree before using the platforms. New tools for users to report violent content will also be built, the companies agreed.

The five firms have said they will for the first time work together on “crisis protocols”, establishing with governments and other organisations a set of rules for responding to “active terror events”.

Former British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, now Facebook’s head of global affairs, was joined by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey at the meeting, along with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. King Abdullah of Jordan and Britain’s prime minister, Theresa May, were also among the world leaders at the meeting hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron.

The United States said it agreed with the overarching message of the Christchurch Call, but was “not in a position” to endorse it.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies