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New Zealand PM Ardern steps up fight against extremist online content

New Zealand PM Ardern steps up fight against extremist online content
Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern speaks during the Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York City, New York, U.S., September 25, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton -
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SHANNON STAPLETON(Reuters)
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WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced more funding and support on Monday to target violent extremist content online, just months after an alleged white supremacist livestreamed a massacre at two mosques in Christchurch.

The attack on March 15 that killed 51 Muslim worshippers was livestreamed on Facebook, and the video was shared on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook-owned apps Whatsapp and Instagram.

Ardern said the government was investing NZ$17 million ($10.73 million) over four years to boost New Zealand’s ability to find, stop and stamp out terrorist and violent extremist content online quickly.

The investment would be used to double the investigative, forensic, intelligence and prevention work of the Department of Internal Affairs, she announced at a press conference.

A new team of 17 people will be dedicated to tackling such content, the government in a statement.

The new department’s powers include investigating and prosecuting those committing offences through both proactive detection and working with international and domestic partners, it added.

“Our online world must be a force for good where we can exchange ideas, share technology, and maintain civil liberties, while protecting New Zealanders from objectionable content,” Ardern said in the statement.

“Countering violent extremism online is an important part of our response to the March 15 terrorist attacks,” she added.

Silicon Valley tech giants and world leaders have endorsed a movement by Ardern called “Christchurch Call” which aims to establish ethical standards for tech companies and media outlets to avoid amplifying violent extremist content online.

Their commitment was tested last week as social media firms scrambled to scrub footage of a shooting outside a German synagogue that was livestreamed on Amazon’s <AMZN.O> gaming subsidiary Twitch.

As with Christchurch, full copies and portions of the German video quickly began appearing elsewhere online, shared both by supporters of the gunman’s anti-Semitic ideology and critics condemning his actions.

Ardern said in a press conference later that the attack in Germany last week was another reminder of the threat of online extremism.

(Reporting by Praveen Menon)

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