Following Facebook's much condemned, passive role in publishing and disseminating a live-streamed video of the massacre of 51 Muslims in Christchurch New Zealand in March, the company, along with several others and a handful of democratic governments has pledged to stop the spread of extremist and terrorist content.
A non-binding resolution called the Christchurch Call, jointly unveiled this week by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron, seeks to bring tech companies and governments together in an effort to stem such content. So far, the governments of the UK, Canada, France and Australia have signed on, as have Facebook, Twitter, Alphabet, Microsoft, and Amazon, as Recode reports.
Thank you for being here @JacindaArdern, @KingAbdullahII, @Macky_Sall, @Pak_JK, @erna_solberg, @JustinTrudeau, @theresa_may, @LeoVaradkar, and @JunckerEU, for an unprecedented joint initiative: the #ChristchurchCall to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online. pic.twitter.com/NLqIeWmG4V— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) May 15, 2019
I've signed up to today's Christchurch Call to Action. This commits governments and tech companies to working together to tackle terrorist and violent extremist material online.#ChristchurchCall pic.twitter.com/XYbujQFhWJ— Theresa May (@theresa_may) May 15, 2019
Hateful content online has deadly consequences, and we need to stop it. Today in Paris I joined @jacindaardern, @EmmanuelMacron & other leaders in adopting the Christchurch Call to Action - a global pledge to end terrorism & violent extremism online. More: https://t.co/MiQ9EQHGlP pic.twitter.com/ETKqBBNzyK— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) May 15, 2019
In part, the call-to-action statement reads:
The Christchurch Call is a commitment by Governments and tech companies to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online. It rests on the conviction that a free, open and secure internet offers extraordinary benefits to society. Respect for freedom of expression is fundamental. However, no one has the right to create and share terrorist and violent extremist content online.
But the Trump Administration, true to form, did not attend the summit in Paris hosted by Macron, and has found reason to avoid signing on with these other countries because of concerns about free speech. Clearly it is using this move as a dog whistle to its supporters on the far right, and all of the monotonous champions of "free speech" on Fox News who feel persecuted on social media for being conservative.
The White House issued a statement saying, "While the United States is not currently in a position to join the endorsement, we continue to support the overall goals reflected in the Call. We will continue to engage governments, industry, and civil society to counter terrorist content on the Internet." The statement added, in an echo of the NRA's arguments about arming teachers in schools, "the best tool to defeat terrorist speech is productive speech."
The move comes less than a month after Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey sat down with President Trump in a closed-door meeting that the president primarily used to accuse Twitter of playing "political games" and deliberately culling his followers. That accusations stems from misinformation last year surrounding Twitter's purge of fake accounts — and Dorsey had to break it to the President that if he lost any followers in the purge, it meant they were fake in the first place.
Trump has fumed for years, in lock-step with conservative pundits, about the perceived liberal bias in Silicon Valley, saying as recently as March that tech companies have a "hatred" for "a certain group of people that happen to be in power, that happen to have won the election." This despite many experts who have suggested that social media, namely Facebook, may have helped Trump get elected.
Critics of the administration see this balking over the Christchurch Call as just more evidence that Trump wants to stand apart from our European allies, and make sure his base knows that he wants to protect their right to say offensive — and/or dangerous — things online. And that base includes the white nationalists that Facebook and others have made efforts to de-platform.
The Southern Poverty Law Center writes, "By not standing alongside other world leaders to fight hate, President Trump has shown once again that he doesn’t understand the importance of white supremacy in fueling terrorism."
Former Obama advisor and Facebook privacy guy Dipayan Ghosh tells the New York Times, "That the U.S. is a no-show to such an important meeting indicates a shocking lack of concern about the tremendous harms perpetuated by the internet, including terrorism and killing."
this is a nonbinding pledge w/o enforcement or regulatory measures. it is an acknowledgment that countries and platforms need to work together to curb violent/extremist content. the stakes of signing are low, which means not signing signals the true values of this administration. https://t.co/h89K7t7luz— Charlie Warzel (@cwarzel) May 15, 2019
By not standing alongside other world leaders to fight hate, President Trump has shown once again that he doesn’t understand the importance of white supremacy in fueling terrorism.https://t.co/ajLJpRAxhX— Southern Poverty Law Center (@splcenter) May 15, 2019
This is essentially an ENDORSEMENT from the White House to allow white extremists to thrive in the United States.— Tariq Nasheed 🇺🇸 (@tariqnasheed) May 15, 2019
White House refuses to endorse the ‘Christchurch Call’ to block white extremist content online – TechCrunch https://t.co/0VRiTjlYfv