Barry Soper: Social media summit will be all talk, no action

Author
Barry Soper,
Section
Opinion,
Publish Date
Thursday, 2 May 2019, 6:19AM
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo / File
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo / File

COMMENT

Few would argue the Prime Minister's motivation behind trying to get rid of terrorist material on the Internet.

Those of us who unfortunately saw the Christchurch gunman's slaughter of 50 worshippers at the two Christchurch mosques will never forget the ghastly images, which of course have no place on Facebook or any other Internet platform.

It'd be wonderful to be able to wave the magic wand and rid the world of the horror that can be found along the cyber highway but of course that's not possible.

It'd be about as difficult as putting the toothpaste back in the tube, even with the buy-in of all those who're making zillions from their platforms, like Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg whose personal wealth grew by a mere six billion dollars in just one day last January.

The best the Christchurch Summit can do with the pledge call, named after the city, is to hopefully make the Zuckerbergs of this world more aware of the revulsion that most of us have over what happened during the massacre.

There are bigger social networks than the American headquartered Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Google that don't appear to have been included even though they also carried the heinous video.

They're the Chinese platforms of WeChat, with more than a billion users a month, which has the ability to make videos.

Few would argue Jacinda Ardern's motivation behind trying to get rid of terrorist material on the Internet. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Few would argue Jacinda Ardern's motivation behind trying to get rid of terrorist material on the Internet. Photo / Mark Mitchell

And there's the Twitter equivalent Weibo which has a hundred million more users than the American network.

Jacinda Ardern says they have reached out to countries and tech companies who are already doing work in this space.

Ardern's not saying yet who's accepted the Paris call-up, and even though she's talked to Zuckerberg, she's refusing to say whether he'll be there.

The list of those invited will come closer to the summit, she assures us.

But without buy-in from the United States the summit's likely to be a lot of talk with no tangible or enforceable action.

With Donald Trump in the White House, America will be even more reluctant than ever to take any notice of impositions that may come out of Paris, particularly on its companies.

And even without Trump, the law there is quite specific when it comes to safeguards around the Internet's freedom of expression.

Not long after the birth of the Internet the Communications Decency Act came into force there which essentially says providers and users of an interactive computer service can't be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another content provider.

In other words the social media platform owners and users can't be held responsible.

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