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Jacinda Ardern speaks with tech leaders to stop violent content online



New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been in contact with leaders of major tech companies like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter, as part of her push to slow the spread of violent content online.

Ardern announced on Wednesday local time that she and French President Emmanuel Macron will host a summit in Paris on May 15 to encourage industry and world leaders to commit to a pledge called the “Christchurch Call,” which seeks to curb extremist content on social media.

The prime minister said she has received positive responses from leaders she has spoken to so far.

“No tech company — just like no government — wishes to see violent extremism and terrorism online,” she told reporters on Wednesday. “So we have a starting point which is one of unity.”

New Zealand has been eager to clamp down on malicious social media activity since 50 people were killed and dozens more injured in mass shootings in Christchurch on March 15. The gunman, a 28-year-old Australian man, livestreamed the attacks at two separate mosques on Facebook, and copies of the gruesome video quickly spread on that platform and others.

“The March 15 terrorist attacks saw social media used in an unprecedented way as a tool to promote an act of terrorism and hate,” Ardern said of the shootings. “We are asking for a show of leadership to ensure social media cannot be used again the way it was.”

Ardern said she spoke directly to the Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who shared his condolences after the shooting. She did not elaborate on the details of their discussion.

Read more: New Zealand’s privacy commissioner lashes out at Facebook, calling those behind the company ‘morally bankrupt pathological liars’

I don’t think anyone would argue the terrorist had a right to livestream the murder of 50 people,” she said.

Facebook faced harsh blowback over the livestream video which was briefly hosted on its site. The company said it had removed 1.5 million videos of the attacks within 24 hours. Still, Business Insider was able to find numerous copies still circulating across social media in the days after the shooting.

Under New Zealand law, dissemination or possession of material depicting extreme violence or terrorism is prohibited, according to The New York Times. New Zealand’s human-rights laws also forbid the incitement of what it calls “racial disharmony” through written or broadcast media.

New Zealand’s censorship office last month made the possession and sharing of the 17-minute livestream illegal. According to Television New Zealand, those who distribute the video could face a maximum of 14 years in prison. Six people appeared in a New Zealand court last week on charges of illegally distributing video from the Christchurch shooting.

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