Jacinda Ardern: The Christchurch summit in Paris

Opinion 30/04/2019

By Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand Labour Party Leader

Using social media to spread terrorism and extremism: Christchurch Summit in Paris

On 15 March, the terrorist attack on two Christchurch mosques was livestreamed and then disseminated to millions of people around the world.

In New Zealand, extremist violence on this scale is both horrific and unprecedented. We know social media can connect people in many positive ways – but on that day in March, it was used as a tool to promote an act of terrorism and hate.

It’s clear that we all need to do more.

For too long, it has been possible to use social platforms to incite extremist violence, and even to distribute illegal images of that violence. Governments have a responsibility to ensure this illegal content cannot be disseminated and cause harm. Similarly, social media providers have a responsibility for the content that is on their platforms, and for taking action so that violent extremist content cannot be published and shared.

In mid-May, alongside French President Emmanuel Macron, I will be co-hosting The Christchurch Summit in Paris. There, we will ask world leaders and leaders from the tech industry to come together and agree to the ‘Christchurch Call’.

A pledge to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.

The Christchurch Call will not  only be a show of leadership, but an act of unity. It will involve other governments, technology companies, business, and civil society leaders. We know if we want to prevent violent extremist content online, we need to take a global approach.

This is not about stifling innovation or suppressing diverse voices and opinions. It is about protecting us all against terrorism and violent extremism. We want a secure, open and free internet, where fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, shall not be compromised.

No country, and no tech company wants to see online platforms used to perpetuate violent extremism or terrorism.

The tech industry has indicated that they are open to working more with government, and I welcome their participation at the Christchurch Summit in Paris.  

It’s vital that technology platforms become part of a global solution to countering extremism. It is only by working together that we may bring to an end the ability to use social media to organise and promote terrorism and violent extremism.

Social media are vast, complex technological platforms. But they were created by people. They are managed by people.

When they harm, they harm people.

And it is people who have the power to determine how they evolve. Let us do that together.

Jacinda Ardern is Prime Minister and Leader of the New Zealand Labour Party.