WELLINGTON (Reuters) – In the wake of the Christchurch attack, New Zealand said on Wednesday that it would work with France to bring together countries and tech companies in an effort to stop social media from being used to promote terrorism and violent extremism, .
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement that she will co-chair a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on May 15 that will seek to have world leaders and CEOs of tech companies agree to a pledge, called the Christchurch Call, to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.
A lone gunman killed 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch on March 15, while livestreaming the massacre on Facebook.
Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, has been charged with 50 counts of murder for the mass shooting.
“It’s critical that technology platforms like Facebook are not perverted as a tool for terrorism, and instead become part of a global solution to countering extremism,” Ardern said in the statement.
“This meeting presents an opportunity for an act of unity between governments and the tech companies,” she added.
The meeting will be held alongside the Tech for Humanity meeting of G7 digital ministers, of which France is the chair, and France’s separate Tech for Good summit, both on 15 May, the statement said.
Ardern will also meet with civil society leaders on May 14 to discuss the content of the call.
Facebook Inc, the world’s largest social network with 2.7 billion users, has faced criticism since the Christchurch attack that it failed to tackle extremism.
One of the main groups representing Muslims in France has said it was suing Facebook and YouTube, a unit of Alphabet’s Google, accusing them of inciting violence by allowing the streaming of the Christchurch massacre on their platforms.
Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said last month that the company was looking to place restrictions on who can go live on its platform based on certain criteria.
“Social media platforms can connect people in many very positive ways, and we all want this to continue,” said Ardern.
“But for too long, it has also been possible to use these platforms to incite extremist violence, and even to distribute images of that violence, as happened in Christchurch. This is what needs to change,” she said.
(This version of the story has been refiled to remove extraneous comma in first paragraph)
(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)