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Commentary: Access Now highlights positive elements & shortcomings of Christchurch call

Author: Javier Pallaro, Access Now, Published on: 15 May 2019

"Access Now on the Christchurch Call: rights, wrongs, and what's next," 15 May 2019

[A] group of governments led by New Zealand, and major tech companies including Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and Twitter, signed and published the “Christchurch Call,” a voluntary pledge with commitments aimed at eliminating terrorist and violent extremist content online... [but] did not create the text through an inclusive public consultation. Instead, those leading the conversation developed the recommendations for key governments and tech companies behind closed doors... New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern... convened a meeting in Paris for civil society... only a day before the Christchurch Call was released. The objective was for civil society stakeholders to provide input into how the Call should be implemented, not to seek feedback on the substance. 

... The Christchurch Call explicitly cites human rights as both a guiding objective of government action and a limiting factor. It also underlines transparency obligations for companies and governments... [However] the Call... urges action by “online service providers” without defining what is meant by that. Under this broad umbrella term, we could see numerous unrelated internet services, such as infrastructure providers like DNS operators or telecommunications carriers, affected by rules not intended for them... [T]he Call focuses primarily on putting the responsibility for identifying and removing violent extremist content on internet companies. These companies do have a key role to play and must live up to... their duty to respect human rights. However, governments should never outsource the regulation of speech to private entities, as doing so removes principles of due process and government accountability.

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