Thu, May 16, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Macron, Ardern host summit on online extremism

AFP, PARIS

French President Emmanuel Macron and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern were yesterday to host other world leaders and leading tech chiefs to launch an ambitious new initiative aimed at curbing extremism online.

The initiative, known as the “Christchurch call,” was pushed by Ardern after a self-described white supremacist gunned down 51 people in a massacre at two mosques in the New Zealand city in March, the country’s worst atrocity in recent times.

Participants were to be asked to commit to pledges to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content on social media and other online platforms.

The political meeting was to run in parallel to an initiative launched by Macron called “Tech for Good,” which was to bring together 80 tech chiefs in Paris to find a way for new technologies to work for the common good.

The summit comes as there is a growing realization that the current abuse of social media by extremists must be countered, after the Christchurch attacker broadcast live footage on Facebook from a head-mounted camera.

New Zealand’s leader has been the driving force behind the Paris summit following the tragedy.

Ardern earned huge international prominence and respect after the attacks by reaching out to Muslim communities at home and vowing a wide-ranging crackdown on extremist content.

Other key leaders to attend included Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, British Prime Minister Theresa May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Prominent figures from tech and social networks were also to be present, most notably Twitter founder and CEO Jack Dorsey, who was also to have bilateral talks with Ardern.

However, to the disappointment of some, a notable absentee was to be Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who held talks in Paris with Macron last week.

The social network giant, under fire from all quarters over its response to violent extremist content, was instead to be represented by vice president for global affairs and communications Nick Clegg, the former British deputy prime minister.

The Christchurch call meeting was to start at about 4pm and finish with a news conference by Ardern and Macron at 6pm.

The Tech for Good meeting was also to be attended by Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who was later to have bilateral talks with Macron.

In an opinion piece in the New York Times over the weekend, Ardern said that the Christchurch massacre underlined “a horrifying new trend” in extremist atrocities.

“It was designed to be broadcast on the Internet. The entire event was livestreamed... The scale of this horrific video’s reach was staggering,” she wrote.

Facebook removed 1.5 million copies of the video within 24 hours of the attack, Ardern said, but added that she still found herself among those who inadvertently saw the footage when it auto-played on their social media feeds.

“[We’re] asking both nations and private corporations to make changes to prevent the posting of terrorist content online, to ensure its efficient and fast removal and to prevent the use of livestreaming as a tool for broadcasting terrorist attacks,” she wrote.

New Zealand officials said that Ardern found a natural partner for the fight against online extremism in Macron, who has repeatedly stated that the “status quo” is unacceptable.

“Macron was one of the first leaders to call the prime minister after the attack, and he has long made removing hateful online content a priority,” New Zealand Ambassador to France Jane Coombs told journalists on Monday.

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