Barry Soper: Ardern's Christchurch Call will be weak on implementation

Author
Barry Soper,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Monday, 13 May 2019, 7:10AM
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with French President Emmanuel Macron. Photo / Getty Images.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with French President Emmanuel Macron. Photo / Getty Images.

COMMENT

Cleaning up the internet is tantamount to putting toothpaste back in the tube. Still, Jacinda Ardern flew out of the country last night to try to do just that.

The so-called Christchurch Summit in Paris this week will seek to secure commitments from governments and tech companies to eliminate online terrorism and violent extremism, such as the live-streaming of the accused mosque gunman.

They'll be asked to sign up to the Christchurch Pledge, which will be strong on rhetoric but weak on implementation.

Ardern has been on the phone to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg since the mosque shootings but he won't be in Paris.

Internet insiders say he rarely turns up to anything but at least he's sending someone, his relatively new recruit, former British deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who's in charge of global policy.

Google will be there with its top legal man, Kent Walker.

The only platform that'll have its chief executive there is Donald Trump's podium, Twitter. The social media agency hasn't been able to control his outbursts which doesn't augur well for what they hope to do with other extreme postings.

The Americans will be conspicuous by their absence at the summit and without political buy-in from that country, chances of success would seem to be slim.

When you consider that just last week Facebook was caught inadvertently creating Islamic State and Nazi propaganda it's got beyond their control.

We're all aware of Facebook generating celebration and memory clips for its users. But at the same time it's also been doing the same for members of extremist organisations with its artificial intelligence, or algorithms, even creating a business page for al-Qaeda which took credit for the Twin Towers massacre.

Ardern will be sharing the stage with her new-generation buddies, French President Emmanuel Macron and Canada's Justin Trudeau - who given their popularity at home will be hoping some of hers will rub off on them.

Still, at least she's got the conversation going and internet insiders who know the participants taking part say the platform bosses are all motivated to clean up their act and they maintain they won't be conflicted by cutting profits to do so.

The only conflict will be how to technically achieve it - and when you're getting two billion postings every day that's no easy task, it's an impossible one regardless of any pledge they might sign up to.

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