Christchurch Call summit hours away from kicking off

Newstalk ZB ,
Publish Date
Wed, 15 May 2019, 6:42PM
Jacinda Ardern is on the ground in Paris for the summit. (Photo / AP)

Christchurch Call summit hours away from kicking off

Newstalk ZB ,
Publish Date
Wed, 15 May 2019, 6:42PM

It is two months ago since the Christchurch mosque attacks in which 51 people died and the incident was livestreamed on Facebook in a video that went viral.

Since then, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has worked diligently behind the scenes on two responses to minimise the chances of a repeat of March 15: banning most semi-automatic firearms and assault rifles, and starting a global collaboration between governments and tech companies to stop violent extremist content on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

Gun law reform took four weeks to come into effect, and tomorrow the Governments of at least 10 countries will join the world's major tech companies in signing the Christchurch Call to Action.

It will be voluntary framework whereby governments and tech companies pledge to work towards stopping violent content from being posted online, and preventing such content from spreading so rapidly.

Just 12 hours before the summit was due to begin in Paris, Facebook announced tougher rules on who will be banned from using Facebook Live and a plan to invest US$7.5 million in developing AI technology to detect the kind of video footage that should be blocked.

"We will now apply a 'one strike' policy to [block users from Facebook] Live in connection with a broader range of offences," Facebook VP intergrity Guy Rosen said in a statement.

"From now on, anyone who violates our most serious policies will be restricted from using Live for set periods of time - for example 30 days - starting on their first offence."

The Christchurch Call to Action will have four main components:

  • The context of the March 15 mosque attacks.
  • A commitment from governments to use legal frameworks to counter drivers of terrorism and violent extremism.
  • A commitment from tech companies to take preventative measures to stop the upload of objectionable material, including being more transparent about their algorithms and working together across the tech sector.
  • A commitment for governments and tech companies to work together.

Key parts will include preserving freedom of expression, abiding by international human rights law, and respecting a free, open and secure internet.

The pledge will lay a platform for further action, which the governments and tech companies will determine respectively and collaboratively.

Part of that will be an expectation that tech companies invest heavily in innovation and research to develop their AI to block objectionable content before it is published.

There will also be an expectation for governments to adopt a legal framework in their respective countries to make tech companies more responsible for the online content they host.

How they do so will be up to those governments. Changes are being considered for domestic laws in New Zealand, where tech companies are not necessarily liable for content on their platforms, and there is no statutory duty of care.

The call will be the first agreement to include both heads of state and tech companies, and will seek to address concerns over whether tech companies are doing all they can to reduce online harm, and whether they've become such global juggernauts that they are essentially answerable to no one.

Ardern will also raise the issue of chasing profits at the expense of potent harm, which could lead to a plan to tackle the broader issue of the business models that can be used to lead users down an online rabbit hole to radicalisation.

One of the work programmes that may emerge is for governments and tech companies to share data in order to build a global database of words, memes and other content that would raise flags about potentially extremist material.

Tech companies and governments working collaboratively makes the inclusion of the United States all the more important, and on the eve of the summit there was still no indication that the US will be represented.

The Herald understands the call to action will focus not just on livestreaming video, but all terrorist and violent extremist content.

The summit, co-chaired by Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron, will be one aspect of a busy day in France for Ardern.
She will host a roundtable of tech company representatives in the morning, co-chair the summit in the afternoon (Thursday NZT) with Macron, host the Tech for Good dinner that evening, and throughout the day have bilateral meetings with Jordan King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein, Twitter boss Jack Dorsey, Macron, Norwegian Prime Minister Elna Solberg, and UK Prime Minister Theresa May.

She will also meet Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau before flying out of Paris on Thursday.