Bridges slams Christchurch Call, says PM too focused on Twitter

Section
Politics,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 10 September 2019, 3:10PM
The National leader says that New Zealanders aren't interested. (Photo / NZ Herald)
The National leader says that New Zealanders aren't interested. (Photo / NZ Herald)

The Prime Minister is too focused on Twitter and Facebook and not on the issues that matter to everyday New Zealanders, National leader Simon Bridges says.

And he adds that the Christchurch Call, an agreement signed by 17 countries and eight online platforms including Twitter and Facebook to tackle online terrorist content and violent extremism, is a talkfest that has achieved nothing.

But Jacinda Ardern has hit back, saying about 10,000 New Zealanders contacted a mental health hotline after the March 15 shootings, and she felt a responsibility to do something on behalf of New Zealand.

Bridges' comments come a day after Ardern met Twitter boss Jack Dorsey at the Beehive, where they discussed progress on the Christchurch Call ahead of an announcement during the UN general assembly in New York later this month.

The announcement is expected to be around how tech companies and countries can work together to combat the viral spread online terrorist or violent material, which is what happened with the livestream of the alleged gunman's video on March 15.

Yesterday Ardern praised Twitter for being particularly engaged in the efforts around the Christchurch Call to tackle online terrorist content.

"None of the momentum since March 15 has been lost, and if anything, they're more resolute now more than ever," Ardern said.

But Bridges said many New Zealanders didn't see that work, or the upcoming announcement in New York, as a priority.

"Somehow by having a talkfest with Twitter and Facebook and coming up with some pretty nebulous feel-good proposal at the UN, that is going to change the face of terrorism and the abhorrent things that happened in Christchurch. I don't believe that," Bridges told reporters this morning.

"Dealing with Twitter and Facebook and all of these companies and making it a main focus of the Prime Minister and the Government is not a priority for New Zealanders. No ifs, no buts."

He said he was against violent content being posted online, but called the Christchurch Call "a big talkfest in Paris that has achieved nothing" and that was unlikely to prevent another March 15 happening.

"I don't think it's something that matters particularly strongly to a whole bunch of New Zealanders who want to see a Government ... focused on health, on education, on infrastructure.

"Some guy or girl out in West Auckland or south Auckland or Invercargill, who is struggling to pay their bills, they want to see a Government focused on the stuff that matters to them."

He said the Government should be more focused on health and education, and on infrastructure like building roads and houses.

"I say quite clearly, actually less time with Jack from Twitter, less time with Facebook, less time worrying about these international issues."

Asked about Bridges' comments, Ardern hit back.

"I absolutely disagree.

"Ten thousand New Zealanders reached out for support after March 15. That would have been the distress of the attack, but also for many it was because they saw that footage online.

"I think we have a responsibility to do something about that on behalf of New Zealand."

In the lead up to the six-month anniversary of the Christchurch shootings, which is on Sunday, Ardern said yesterday that March 15 was "a horrific first when it came to the way the alleged offender in this case promoted this horrific terrorist act".

She said it had thrust New Zealand in uncharted territory, and it was right to respond in a leadership role by bringing together several parties to try and make positive changes.

She added that more needed to be done to stop bullying and discrimination.

"We are not a perfect nation. We knew that before the 15th of March, but this has highlighted the experience of many in our community ... and the obligation we all have to address that."

 

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