The Christchurch Call to Action summit against online extremism in Paris which was prompted by the Christchurch mosque attacks in March which killed 51 people led to major tech firms pledging to come up with measures to stamp out violent extremist content on the internet.
A special meeting held during the summit was co-chaired by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron involving 15 other world leaders – including Britain, Canada, Ireland, Senegal, Indonesia and Norway but excluding the United States – and major tech chiefs who came together to launch a global initiative to curb extremism online.
The initiative, called the ‘Christchurch Call to Action’ is an international effort to stop social media being used to organise and promote terrorism.
Executives from Google, Twitter, Facebook and Microsoft met with the world leaders to unveil the Christchurch Call of voluntary commitments. When the Christchurch attacks happened, a horrific footage was uploaded online and shared by millions of people despite Facebook’s efforts to remove it. The social network giant faced a barrage of criticism for it.
At a press conference after the meeting, Mrs Ardern said, “The call is a roadmap to action. It commits us all to build a more humane internet which cannot be misused by terrorists for their hateful purposes.”
Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter later issued a joint statement outlining a nine-point plan to get the ball rolling in fulfilling the pledges of the Christchurch Call, particularly in addressing the issue of live-streaming potentially violent and extremist content.
The five tech giants said, “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.”
Some of the measure that were announced include investment in ‘digital fingerprinting’ which would enable tech companies to track and remove harmful content to prevent it from going viral, and the establishment of an easy to use method for users to report illicit content.
The specific details and tools of how this would be done is left up to the companies themselves.
The companies also committed to publishing ‘transparency reports’ on detection and removal of terrorist or violent extremist content on a regular basis.
In an AFP report on the summit, it was noted that the US government didn’t participate and that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was absent as well. Mr Zuckerberg, it was reported, held talks with President Macron last week.
Meanwhile, the US White House said in a statement that they “continue to support the overall goals reflected”, adding “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.”
Responding to questions on the absence of the US at the meeting, President Macron said, “The American administration has expressed its support for our effort, which I already consider progress.”
This meeting between world leaders and major tech firms occurred in tandem with the “Tech for Good” initiative launched by Mr Macron which saw 80 tech executives coming together to discuss ways of harnessing technology for the common good.