Facebook to tighten livestream access after Christchurch attacks

Social media giants, including Facebook and Twitter, were heavily criticized after the terror attacks on New Zealand mosques for their perceived inactivity in dealing with material livestreamed by the suspect.

Facebook's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg admitted Saturday that the social media giant had not done enough in the aftermath of the March 15 terror attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, which saw 50 people killed.

An Australian white supremacist has been charged with murder over the attack and is expected to reappear in court next week.

The alleged attacker livestreamed the attacks on Facebook for 17 minutes before the company removed it after being alerted by police. Clips from the stream had already gone viral.

Read more: New Zealand reopens mosques targeted in terror attack

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Memorial service for victims of mosque attacks

'Must do more'

"In the immediate aftermath, we took down the alleged terrorist's Facebook and Instagram accounts, removed the video of the attack, and used artificial intelligence to proactively find and prevent related videos from being posted," Sandberg said in a letter to the New Zealand Herald newspaper.

"We have heard feedback that we must do more — and we agree," she added.

"In the wake of the terrorist attack, we are taking three steps: strengthening the rules for using Facebook Live, taking further steps to address hate on our platforms, and supporting the New Zealand community," she wrote.

Facebook on Wednesday announced it was extending its ban on hate speech to include content related to white nationalism and separatism on both its Facebook and Instagram platforms. It will be enforced as of next week.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern urged social media companies to take more responsibility for their content. The Australian government plans to introduce new laws to prevent people from "weaponizing social media platforms."

Read more: Turkey's Erdogan shows Christchurch mosque shooting video again despite protest from New Zealand

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Christchurch grieves right-wing terror attack

'There was blood everywhere'

A witness said "there was blood everywhere," after a right-wing terror attack on two New Zealand mosques killed 50 on Friday. Another witness saw a man in black enter the Al Noor mosque during prayers in Christchurch and heard dozens of shots before fleeing, adding that he saw several dead on the scene. As of Friday afternoon 48 people, including children, were being treated for gunshot wounds.

Christchurch grieves right-wing terror attack

Twin attacks target two mosques

Police asked all mosques across New Zealand to close while they hunted those responsible for the twin attacks. Al Noor mosque (above) is approximately 7 kilometers across the city from Linwood Mosque, the site of the second shooting.

Christchurch grieves right-wing terror attack

City on lockdown

Police initially arrested four people, two of them armed, and later charged one with murder. An Australian man, Brenton Tarrant, is alleged to have filmed himself carrying out the shooting and streamed it on social media. A manifesto was also published online, praising white men who had carried out similar massacres. It also called US President Donald Trump a "symbol of renewed white identity."

Christchurch grieves right-wing terror attack

'Atmosphere of fear'

The attacker's stated aim was to "create an atmosphere of fear" and "incite violence" against Muslims. Police said they recovered several guns from the mosques and two explosive devices in two vehicles at the scene. While the suspects were unknown to police, they said the attack appeared to have been well planned. Police were not searching for other suspects, but were on alert

Christchurch grieves right-wing terror attack

Narrow escape as shock spreads

The world reacted in shock. Anger spread in some countries and security was heightened at prayers at this mosque in Bangladesh as news was released that the Bangladeshi cricket team had narrowly escaped the shooting. The players had arrived at one of the mosques as the attack was unfolding when they heard gunshots.

Christchurch grieves right-wing terror attack

'One of New Zealand's darkest days'

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the attack as terrorism, calling it "one of New Zealand’s darkest days." "Many directly affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand, they may even be refugees here...They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not," she said.

Christchurch grieves right-wing terror attack

World in mourning

Friday sermons across the world were dominated by grief and prayers for the lives lost in the attack. Prayers at the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem (here) mourned the victims. Demonstrations in other major cities such as Sydney, Istanbul and London condemned global terror.

Christchurch grieves right-wing terror attack

Dismay at 'senseless violence'

Leaders across the world expressed solidarity with the victims and their families, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn outside New Zealand House in London. Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed solidarity against "racist hatred," and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called it an "attack on all of us." Queen Elizabeth was "deeply saddened," while other leaders expressed their outrage at hate speech.

shs/jlw (dpa, AFP)

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