New Zealand trying to lead crackdown on social media

Without knowing any details I don’t know whether the be pleased or concerned about attempts by the New Zealand Government to lead a crackdown on social media.

It is too easy for people and organisations to spread false and damaging information via social media, but attempts to deal with this could easily lurch too far in limiting freedom of expression.

NZ Herald – Social media crackdown: How New Zealand is leading the global charge

Steps towards global regulation of social media companies to rein in harmful content looks likely, with the Government set to take a lead role in a global initiative, the Herald has learned.

The will of governments to work together to tackle the potentially harmful impacts of social media would have only grown stronger in the wake of the terror attacks in Sri Lanka, where Facebook and Instagram were temporarily shut down in that country to stop the spread of false news reports.

Following the Christchurch terror attack, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been working towards a global co-ordinated response that would make the likes of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter more responsible for the content they host.

The social media companies should be held to account for what they enable, but it’s a very tricky thing to address without squashing rights and freedoms.

Currently multinational social media companies have to comply with New Zealand law, but they also have an out-clause – called the safe harbour provisions – that means they may not be legally liable for what users publish on their sites, though these were not used in relation to the livestream video of the massacre in Christchurch.

Other countries, including Australia, are taking a more hardline approach that puts more onus on these companies to block harmful content, but the Government has decided a global response would be more effective, given the companies’ global reach.

Facebook has faced a barrage of criticism for what many see as its failure to immediately take down the livestream and minimise its spread; Facebook removed 1.5 million videos of the attack within 24 hours.

They were too ineffective and too slow – that they took down one and a half million copies shows how quickly the video spread before action was taken.

Ardern has said this wasn’t good enough, saying shortly after the Christchurch terror attack: “We cannot simply sit back and accept that these platforms just exist and that what is said on them is not the responsibility of the place where they are published.”

Among those adding their voices to this sentiment were the bosses of Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees and the managers of five government-related funds, who all called on social media companies to do more to combat harmful content.

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards has also been scathing, calling Facebook “morally bankrupt” and saying it should take immediate action to make its services safe.

Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker said that existing laws and protections were not enough to stop the online proliferation of the gunman’s video.

He doubted that changing any New Zealand laws would be effective, and echoed Ardern in saying that a global solution was ideal.

But it is generally much harder to get international agreement on restrictive laws, so a global solution may be very difficult to achieve. Actually there is never likely to be ‘a solution’, all they can do is make it harder for bad stuff to proliferate.

The UK is currently considering a white paper on online harms that proposes a “statutory duty of care” for online content hosts.

Rules would be set up and enforced by an independent regulator, which would demand illegal content to be blocked within “an expedient timeframe”. Failure to comply could lead to substantial fines or even shutting down the service.

The problem is an effective timeframe has to be just about instant.

In Australia a law was recently passed that requires hosting services to “remove abhorrent violent material expeditiously” or face up to three years’ jail or fines in the millions of dollars.

Germany also has a law that gives social media companies an hour to remove “manifestly unlawful” posts such as hate speech, or face a fine up to 50 million Euros.

And the European Union is considering regulations that would give social media platforms an hour to remove or disable online terrorist content.

In New Zealand multiple laws – including the Harmful Digital Communications Act, the Human Rights Act, and the Crimes Act – dictate what can and cannot be published on social media platforms.

While Ardern has ruled out a model such as Australia’s, changes to New Zealand law could still happen following the current review of hate speech.

Legally defining ‘hate speech’ wil be difficult enough, and applying laws governing speech will require decisions and judgements to be made by people. That could be very difficult to do effectively.

 

 

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Notre-Dame Cathedral on fire

Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris is on fire. There has been major damage, and the spire has collapsed.

The cathedral was being renovated.

Reuters: Paris’ historic Notre-Dame Cathedral hit by fire

A major fire broke out at the medieval Notre-Dame Cathedral in central Paris on Monday afternoon, leading firefighters to clear the area around one of the city’s most visited landmarks.

It was not immediately clear what had caused the fire. France 2 television reported that police were treating the incident as an accident.

A major operation was under way, the fire department said, while a city hall spokesman said on Twitter that the area was being cleared.

Notre-Dame was in the midst of renovations, with some sections under scaffolding, while bronze statues were removed last week for works.

Wikipedia:  Notre-Dame de Paris

Notre-Dame de Paris (meaning “Our Lady of Paris”)  is a medieval Catholic cathedral on the Île de la Cité in the fourth arrondissement of Paris, France.

The cathedral is considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. The innovative use of the rib vault and flying buttress, the enormous and colorful rose windows, and the naturalism and abundance of its sculptural decoration all set it apart from earlier Romanesque architecture.

The cathedral was begun in 1160 and largely completed by 1260, though it was modified frequently in the following centuries. In the 1790s, Notre-Dame suffered desecration during the French Revolution when much of its religious imagery was damaged or destroyed.

A major restoration project supervised by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc began in 1845 and continued for twenty-five years. Beginning in 1963, the facade of the Cathedral was cleaned of centuries of soot and grime, returning it to its original color.

Another campaign of cleaning and restoration was carried out from 1991-2000.

And as reported Notre-Dame was undergoing further restoration, which is thought to be related to a possible cause of the fire.

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