New Zealand and France lead global push to de-radicalise the internet after Christchurch attack

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron have hosted world leaders, tech executives and affected communities in a virtual summit aimed at ridding the world of terrorist content online.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during the Christchurch Call international leaders' summit on 15 May, 2021 in Wellington, New Zealand.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during the Christchurch Call international leaders' summit on 15 May, 2021 in Wellington, New Zealand. Source: Getty

Australian Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews has reiterated the government's commitment to removing terrorist and violent extremist content online after joining a virtual summit of world leaders. 

Ms Andrews on Saturday joined New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, French President Emmanuel Macron and several other government and technology leaders on the second anniversary of the Christchurch Call.

The Christchurch Call was launched by Ms Ardern and Mr Macron in the wake of the 2019 Christchurch terror attack, which was live-streamed and stored online.

Since then more than 50 countries, international organisations and tech firms have supported the initiative including Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft.

A media release from Ms Andrews said participants had agreed to improve crisis responses, further research the link between social media algorithms and radicalisation, and enhance transparency through voluntary reporting of the removal of terrorist and violent extremist content.

The United States joined the Christchurch Call for the first time, with Ms Ardern saying co-operation to de-radicalise online spaces was gaining momentum. 

"We will not ... prevent future atrocities such as what we experienced here on March 15 unless we work together," she said.

A key finding of the royal commission into the Christchurch attacks was that the terrorist responsible was radicalised on YouTube and other online spaces while viewing white supremacist material.

YouTube is programmed, using algorithms, to link users to similar videos, which can lead to vulnerable people being saturated in extremist content.

After her country's experience, Ms Ardern wants to see this change - and she believes it is happening.

"That is probably the biggest focus for the Call community over the next year," she said.

"Let's have that conversation around the ethical use of algorithms, and how they can use be used in a positive way and for positive interventions."

YouTube chief executive Susan Wojcicki said on Twitter the company was continuing "to strengthen our policies, improve transparency, and restrict borderline content".

The Christchurch Call has also developed a protocol which can intervene to stop the livestreaming of similar attacks.

This has occurred twice, during a 2019 shooting in Halle, Germany and a 2020 attack in Glendale, Arizona.

New Zealand Muslim community leader Anjum Rahman, who is co-chair of the Christchurch Call advisory network, said it was heartening to see more leaders support efforts to tackle violent extremism.

She said that even as the grieving continues for many in the local Muslim community, there is a resolute desire to ensure such a tragedy does not happen again.

"People have recognised the need to change society's dynamic. We need to be working much more on social inclusion, and making sure that we don't allow hate to flourish within our community," he told SBS News.

"I feel that New Zealand is a lot more receptive to that."

With reporting by AAP and Reuters.

3 min read
Published 15 May 2021 at 12:39pm
By Biwa Kwan
Source: SBS