United States declines to support Christchurch Call for Action

Jacinda Ardern,PM Jacinda Ardern,New Zealand

Twitter, Google, Microsoft and several other companies are also taking part, along with the leaders of Britain, France, Canada, Ireland, Senegal, Indonesia, Jordan and the European Union. The decision puts the United States at odds with US tech companies including Facebook and Google, which are expected to support the effort.

Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, a member of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told reporters, "I think everybody agrees that a higher level of responsibility is demanded from all of the platforms".

He said the Christchurch Call differed from previous initiatives to clean up the internet, because of the involvement of tech companies and its worldwide appeal.

The move is in response to the Mosque massacre that occurred in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March, in which a gunman livestreamed his gunning down of 50 victims.

Users wanting to share the video changed aspects of the footage to side-step AI detection; Facebook said there were 900 different variations of the footage.

The firms said they would update their terms of use to "expressly prohibit the distribution of terrorist and violent extremist content".

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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, left, and French President Emmanuel Macron, hold a press conference at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, Wednesday, May 15, 2019.

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"This may include using algorithms and other processes to redirect users from such content or the promotion of credible, positive alternatives or counter-narratives", the Christchurch Call to Action document says.

Top executives from Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Twitter were also expected to attend, though Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg was to be represented by another executive from the social media giant. Interestingly, the Christchurch Call for Action is a rare instance where governments and private sector have made similar pledges with the same intent.

All parties also pledged to invest in developing AI technology to prevent the upload of such content and, if it does get published, to detect and immediately remove it from online platforms.

The White House has claimed it is "not in a position to join the endorsement" despite backing the overarching goal of the pledge.

In an opinion piece in The New York Times over the weekend, Ardern said the Christchurch massacre underlined "a horrifying new trend" in extremist atrocities. In the past, President Donald Trump has accused social media companies of "censorship" when they've banned certain users who are extremists.

The California-based platform said it would ban Facebook Live users who shared extremist content and seek to reinforce its own internal controls to stop the spread of offensive videos.

Facebook announced that it was putting $7.5 million into research partnerships with three United States universities to improve image and video analysis technology.

"All action on this issue must be consistent with principles of a free, open and secure internet, without compromising human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression", it says.

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