Barry Soper: Ardern used by Macron to boost his image

Author
Barry Soper,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 14 May 2019, 6:26AM
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron. Photo / Getty Images.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron. Photo / Getty Images.

COMMENT

What is French President Emmanuel Macron playing at? The answer's pretty obvious, he's trying to boost his flagging popularity at home while at the same time trying to establish himself as a world leader on cleaning up the internet.

In the first instance, he decided he needed to grandstand in his capital and upstage two tech conferences, one involving G7 digital ministers, being held in Paris on Thursday (NZT).

Macron wasn't involved in the conferences so he created one of his own, one he knew would be a media magnet, and that's the Christchurch Call summit, with its pledge by those involved to become more vigilant when it comes to cyberspace nasties.

Who better to sit alongside his ego at his self-created summit than New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who's become an international media megastar since the Christchurch massacre.

If you needed any convincing that she's being used, get a load of what happened as she was packing her designer bags for the French capital.

Macron releases a 33-page report he'd commissioned which saw a team of French regulators in Silicon Valley for six months where Facebook opened the doors like it's never done before, giving them access to the company's internal policies.

Why he couldn't delay the release until this week's summit is an insult to those attending.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg (left) and French President Emmanuel Macron meet at at the Elysee Palace last week. Photo / AP
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg (left) and French President Emmanuel Macron meet at at the Elysee Palace last week. Photo / AP

And what's more, the investigation was only halfway through but Macron decided to make a song and dance about how well France is doing. He invited Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to the halfway point launch - and he accepted, praising his host for the work he's been doing. Zuckerberg told him France would make more of a difference to the world than some of the alternatives that are being proposed.

You can imagine how that made Ardern feel and not surprisingly she was on the phone to Zuckerberg on Saturday, without doubt pleading with him to show some good faith and front up at the Thursday meeting. He wished her well but had to get back to work, and for him, time is mega money.

So she'll clearly have to do well without the real Facebook grunt. Even Zuckerberg's billionaire off-sider Sheryl Sandberg, a self-professed admirer of Ardern, didn't have the time to get there.

Instead he's sending the new face on the company block, former British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who's written a book that could at least could help his boss navigate his way through what is an insoluble problem, called Politics, Between the Extremes.

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