Tech giants sign ‘Christchurch call’
LEADERS from 26 countries gathered in Paris to urge social media giants to stop their platforms being "perverted as a tool for terrorists" in the wake of the New Zealand massacre of 51 people live-streamed to Facebook this year.
The unprecedented worldwide show of force and call to regulate social media was staged on the two-month anniversary of the Christchurch mosque attack, in a summit spearheaded by French president Emmanuel Macron and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
World leaders approved a nine-point undertaking for social networks at the meeting that's been dubbed the "Christchurch Call".
But the US will not be a part of the push. The White House has said it will not sign the call to action.
"We continue to be proactive in our efforts to counter terrorist content online while also continuing to respect freedom of expression and freedom of the press," the White House said. "Further, we maintain that the best tool to defeat terrorist speech is productive speech, and thus we emphasise the importance of promoting credible, alternative narratives as the primary means by which we can defeat terrorist messaging."
Ms Ardern said the New Zealand terrorist attack was unprecedented, as its victims were not only killed in their place of worship but then "killed online" in the 17-minute Facebook live-stream that was widely and quickly disseminated for days after the event on March 15.
"Initially the live streams were watched by only a few hundred people but then they were shared and spread," she said.
"The social media response to the attack was unprecedented. And our response today with the Christchurch call is equally unprecedented."
Mr Macron said the agreement should prevent the "transformation of the internet into a crazy propaganda machine favouring divisions and war," and was the first step in a wider worldwide effort to curb violent content on social networks.
"We must regulate the internet better," he said. "We must create a form that allows us to regulate the internet better."
The non-binding Christchurch Call agreement, which has now been signed by Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, Google and Amazon, calls for the tech giants to introduce new safeguards, reporting measures, and data reporting to stop the spread of terrorist content.
The agreement demands new ways to flag inappropriate content, protocols for urgently "responding to emerging or active events," and singles out live-streaming terrorism acts on social media.
In a joint statement, the five tech giants said, "We commit to identifying appropriate checks on live-streaming, aimed at reducing the risk of disseminating terrorist and violent extremist content online.
"These may include enhanced vetting measures and moderation of certain live-streaming events where appropriate."
The companies also committed to producing transparency reports on terrorist activity and introducing new polices to ban "the distribution of terrorist and violent extremist content"
Representatives from nations including Australia, Canada, Ireland, Senegal, Indonesia, and Britain supported the agreement at the summit overnight, with British Prime Minister Theresa May commenting that "governments and internet companies … must work together to stop social media being used to promote terrorism or spread fear and hate".
But the United States failed to send a representative to the summit or agree to sign the document citing concerns about free speech.
Facebook chief executive and founder Mark Zuckerberg also failed to attend the event despite meeting with Mr Macron in Paris just last week.
The world's biggest social network instead sent its vice-president for global affairs and communications, Nick Clegg.