Eight companies & 17 govts. support Christchurch Call to address terrorist & violent extremist content; civil society expresses concerns with the process
On 15 May 2019, 8 companies, 17 governments, and the European Commission adopted the Christchurch Call, a voluntary commitment to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online. This call was proposed two months after terrorist attacks at two Christchurch mosques which were both planned online and livestreamed on Facebook.
The call states that all action to address terrorist and violent extermist content online must be "consistent with principles of a free, open and secure internet, without compromising human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression. It must also recognise the internet’s ability to act as a force for good, including by promoting innovation and economic development and fostering inclusive societies." The full text of the call is available here. Current company supports of the call include Amazon, Daily Motion, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Quant, Twitter and YouTube.
While civil society supports some of the key values espoused in the Call, concerns have been raised about the process and timeline of the Call (including lack of meaningful participation by civil society actors), the definition of "terrorism and violent extremism", and the appropriate roles of tech companies and governments. Civil society actors detailed these concerns, as well as points for further discussion, in this letter.
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Author: Katina Curtis, news.com.au
29 June 2019
...Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison earned a significant victory at the G20 summit by convincing all leaders of the world's major economies to agree to take action, inspired by the live-streamed Christchurch massacre.
"We urge online platforms to step up the ambition and pace of their efforts to prevent terrorist and VECT (violent extremism conducive to terrorism) content from being streamed, uploaded, or re-uploaded," the statement released on Saturday said.
..."The impetus of this is to say to the companies, you have the technology, you have the innovation, you have the resources, and now you have the clear communicated will of the world's leaders to get this right," he told reporters in Osaka.
...It's hoped the G20 statement will now give leaders the political support to enact individual initiatives in their own countries.
"Global leadership, domestic action: it's now up to them to take their actions to protect not only Australian citizens but citizens all around the world from the internet being used in this way," Mr Morrison said.
Australia's laws have been held up as the gold standard for others to follow.
...Australia's move received strong support from Canada's Justin Trudeau, French president Emmanuel Macron, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe and the European Union. German chancellor Angela May and UK prime minister Theresa May also spoke in support of the initiative.
It's understood the US was concerned asking social media companies to halt the publication of such content would constitute censorship, but ultimately signed on after language in the statement was tempered.
Author: 8 companies, 17 governments & the European Commission
The Call outlines collective, voluntary commitments from Governments and online service providers intended to address the issue of terrorist and violent extremist content online and to prevent the abuse of the internet as occurred in and after the Christchurch attacks. 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 must also recognise the internet's ability to act as a force for good, including by promoting innovation and economic development and fostering inclusive societies.
[W]e, the online service providers, commit to:
- Take transparent, specific measures seeking to prevent the upload of terrorist and violent extremist content and to prevent its dissemination on social media and similar content-sharing services...
- Provide greater transparency in the setting of community standards or terms of service...
- Enforce those community standards or terms of service in a manner consistent with human rights and fundamental freedoms...
- Implement immediate, effective measures to mitigate the specific risk that terrorist and violent extremist content is disseminated through livestreaming...
- Implement regular and transparent public reporting...
- Review the operation of algorithms and other processes that may drive users towards and/or amplify terrorist and violent extremist content...
Author: Javier Pallaro, Access Now
"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.
Civil society petition on Christchurch call asserts that govts. should not outsource speech regulation or governance to technology companies
Author: Civil society groups, facilitated by InternetNZ
Th[is] document was prepared for the Civil Society leaders' Voices for Action meeting (14 May 2019) with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to discuss the Christchurch Call... In these discussions, there was broad support for some of the key values of the Call... [and] a range of concerns... The issues with the most shared concern were:
The definition of “terrorism and violent extremism” is extremely important and very problematic if left to states to individually interpret... It is of vital importance that governments participating in the Christchurch Call commit to robust accountability and oversight to ensure that laws... and other initiatives to combat terrorism online do not result in disproportionate human rights violations of... human rights defenders...
There is concern that the commitments made by companies and governments were based on closed-door discussions...
Action must also be taken towards addressing these issues in our society, not just online, including countering the underlying structural and other causes and drivers of “terrorism” and “violent extremism” by strengthening the resilience and inclusiveness of our societies...
Technical solutions need to reflect commitments to human rights and a free, open, and secure Internet. Two specific issues that are particularly problematic in the current Call are the need to: Differentiate between online service providers, such as social media, andcore/key infrastructure; and Exclude upload filters—they are inconsistent with human rights and can prevent the collection of invaluable and unique evidence of human rights abuses themselves.