ANTI-TERRORISM

Macron, Ardern rally nations and tech giants in battle to stamp out online hate

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, third right, participates in a online conference to find ways to stop extremist violence from spreading online.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, third right, participates in a online conference to find ways to stop extremist violence from spreading online. AP - Christchurch Call

The leaders of France and New Zealand warned that social media continued to be a driving force to propagate hate, two years after a white supremacist live-streamed the killing of 51 Muslim worshippers in Christchurch.

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President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern were speaking Friday at a virtual summit, co-hosted by their countries, aimed at battling extremist content on the internet. 

Ardern said efforts to stamp out the spread of harmful content would need to stem from a better understanding of the social media algorithms driving such content.

“The existence of algorithms themselves is not necessarily the problem, it's whether or not they are being ethically used,” she said, adding that tech companies had shown a real desire to use algorithms for “positive interventions”. 

Macron said the internet had been used as a tool in recent attacks in the US, Austria, Germany and elsewhere – adding that new European regulations against extremist content would help coordination efforts.

In a post on Twitter, he said it was up to "democracies and defenders of freedoms" to find the solutions that would enable a free and secure internet.

Widespread support

More than 50 countries have joined the initiative, known as the Christchurch Call, along with tech giants including Facebook, Google, Twitter, Microsoft and Amazon.

The United States gave its support earlier this week in a shift in policy that came two years after former president Donald Trump declined to participate citing concerns over free speech.  

Since Christchurch Call was launched, governments and tech companies have stepped up cooperation to identify violent extremist content online. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK had taken down more than 300,000 pieces of terrorist material from the internet over the past decade.

“Terrorist content is like a metastasising tumour within the internet,” he said in a pre-recorded video shown at the summit.

“If we fail to excise it, it will inevitably spread into homes and high streets the world over.” 

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