'Christchurch Call' launched in Paris as Facebook limits livestreaming for extremists

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03:15 mins.
14.05.2019

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The New Zealand premier went to Paris to launch the "Christchurch Call" to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online. Major tech companies including Facebook and Google have signed on to a plan.

French President Emmanuel Macron and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have launched their "Christchurch Call" initiative aimed at curbing extremism online.

Ardern announced the plan on Wednesday as the first stage of change as the two leaders appeared at the Elysee Palace in Paris. The initiative calls for limits on violent, hateful content and urges social media platforms to reexamine their algorithms.

The attack on two mosques in New Zealand in March had been livestreamed on Facebook Live and 1.5 million copies of the video had to be removed from the social network within 24 hours of the killings.

Ahead of the meeting in Paris on Wednesday, the California-based company announced it would ban Facebook Live users who shared extremist content. It also promised to improve internal controls to stop the spread of offensive videos.

Ardern welcomed the move from Facebook and said in a statement: "There is a lot more work to do, but I am pleased Facebook has taken additional steps today."

Facebook blocked on a mobile

Macron's 'Tech for Good'

Macron met with Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg last week. A further 80 leaders of technology companies including Google, Twitter, Wikipedia and Microsoft came to Paris on Wednesday to take part in the French president's "Tech for Good" forum to discuss how to involve technologies for the common good.

Mark Zuckerberg and Emmanuel Macron in Paris last week

Ardern said in an interview with CNN: "This is not just about regulation, but bringing companies to the table and saying they have a role too."

Facebook admitted shortcomings over the livestreaming of the Christchurch killings: "People — not always intentionally — shared edited versions of the video which made it hard for our systems to detect," said Facebook's vice president of integrity Guy Rosen.

Main points of the Christchurch plan

The "Christchurch Call to Action" is a voluntary pledge signed by US tech giants including Twitter, Facebook, Google and Microsoft and backed by the leaders of Britain, Canada, Ireland, Norway, Jordan, Senegal and Indonesia. 

The main points are:

  • cooperation among tech industry rivals to develop tools to detect and remove hateful content
  • immediate, effective measures to increase oversight of livestreaming
  • moderating content for violence or extremist ideologies
  • efforts to improve digital fingerprinting technologies to identify images and videos
  • review of algorithms which determine what people see in their online accounts
  • promote via algorithms credible, positive alternatives or counter-narratives
  • jointly invest in and expand the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism to prevent platform exploitation
  • sharing of findings between larger and smaller platforms and with developing nations.

Signatories to the plan are also encouraged to invest in education and media literacy to combat extremist ideologies.

The US government announced it would not be signing the "Christchurch Call" but would "continue to support the overall goals reflected," according to a statement from the White House.

"We emphasize the importance of promoting credible, alternative narratives as the primary means by which we can defeat terrorist messaging," the White House said.

jm/msh (AFP, Reuters)

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