A busy day for Ardern in Paris

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern achieved her main aim in Paris, a signed ‘Christchurch  Call’ agreement between 17 countries and also the major tech companies based in China. See: Tech companies, 17 Governments sign up to ‘Christchurch Call’

But in getting there Arden had a very busy day.

Henry Cooke (Stuff): Jacinda Ardern’s big day in Paris ends with her getting what she wanted

She held six one-on-one meetings, hosted two more large ones, gave two speeches and two press conferences.

The Prime Minister spent Wednesday in a whirlwind of events as she finalised the Christchurch Calla set of non-binding commitments governments and tech companies are making to fight online extremism.

The pledge was made exactly two months after the terror attack in Christchurch, in which 51 people were murdered and the massacre livestreamed on Facebook.

Ardern sees this pledge as the second half of the immediate response to the attack, after banning the guns used in the attack within weeks.

One more step towards trying to make the country and the world safer. Obviously not all acts of terrorism will be prevented, and not all spreading of hate and violence online will be stopped, but it must be a move in the right direction – towards a more decent Internet and a more peaceful world.

It will need top be an ongoing effort. And going by the effort she put in so far, Ardern will do everything she can to achieve some level of success.

Her agenda in Paris on Wednesday:

The Prime Minister began her day with a swift bilateral meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan at the OECD Palace, the red carpet literally rolled out for royalty.

Right after that she hosted a tech roundtable with 30 or so representatives of the various tech companies signing on. The cavernous tapestried room, which had tables arranged in something much closer to a square than a circle, featured Ardern, several chief policy officers, and the co-founder of Wikipedia.

Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey was not present, but was due to meet Ardern at the next stop.

Dorsey is four years older than Ardern, but looked much younger as he slunk into the room to shake her hand, with wavy 2008-emo hair and a full beard.

After Dorsey, the Prime Minister and a bedraggled group of reporters following her finally arrived at the Élysées Palace where 250 local and world journalists had received accreditation to cover the main event.

Ardern was greeted by French President Emmanuel Macron at the door, who embraced her with a la bise – basically two quick kisses on the cheek, and asked her how she was…The two disappeared into the palace for a long lunch…

Next up was another bilateral meeting with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg. Norway experienced a similar attack to New Zealand in 2011, but Solberg was not in office at that point.

Then came the proper meeting, the tech representative and world leaders all in one gilded room facing each other across a table. Ardern sat flanked by Macron and Senegal PM Mahammed Dionne. UK Prime Minister Theresa May sat beside the European Commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker on one end of the table – one imagines the pair were just pleased to talk about anything but Brexit, even if it was extremist terrorist content.

A karanga was delivered and Ardern then spoke at length about the need for tech companies to take responsibility for the huge power they now wield.

“I know that none of you want your platforms to perpetuate and amplify terrorism and extremist violence. But these platforms have grown at such pace, with such popularity, that we are all now dealing with consequences you may not have imagined when your company was just a start-up. Your scale and influence brings a burden of responsibility,” Ardern said.

When the closed-meeting finally ended, Ardern and Macron emerged for the kind of press conference where four questions take up 30 minutes.

A short stroll away from the palace, at a building Napoleon built for his sister, Ardern had a brief meeting with UK Prime Minister Theresa May, followed by another press conference for the itchy New Zealand journalists, who had breakfast shows that were just coming on air.

So a very busy day for Ardern, who was making the most of her visit to Paris where a number of world leaders and tech company representatives had gathered.

And from the coverage I saw, Ardern acquitted her aims with aplomb, representing Aotearoa New Zealand very well. She keeps doing very well on the international stage.

Widespread praise makes pride in Ardern’s performances obvious, despite the efforts of a small number who show their displeasure regardless of what Ardern achieves or does.

People who rise to be very good leaders are able to please most of the people most of the time.

If her Government here in New Zealand can get up to speed and deliver on some significant policies, whoever leads National will be powerless to compete, and relatively powerless after next year’s election.

From the Beehive:



Tech companies, 17 Governments sign up to ‘Christchurch Call’

RNZ:  Tech companies and 17 govts sign up to Christchurch Call

Tech company and world leaders have signed an unprecedented Christchurch Call agreement to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.

The meeting, the first of its kind, in Paris overnight saw all of the major technology companies, 17 countries and the European Commission sign up to the call initiated by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron, in the wake of the Christchurch attack that killed 51 people.

The action plan asks tech companies to review the operation of their algorithms that are driving users towards or amplifying terrorist content online and find ways to intervene earlier.

Signatories to the ‘Christchurch Call’:

Australia, Canada, European Commission, France, Germany, Indonesia, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Senegal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom.

Companies: Amazon, Daily Motion, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Qwant, Twitter, YouTube.

This is a good start to dealing better with online extremism.

White House statement:

The United States stands with the international community in condemning terrorist and violent extremist content online in the strongest terms. Underscored by the horrific terror attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 15, we agree with the overarching message of the Christchurch Call for Action, and we thank Prime Minister Ardern and President Macron for organising this important effort.

The full Christchurch Call statement:


Document here.

Jacinda Ardern in Paris on the Christchurch Call

Stuff: PM tells tech companies they must take on more responsibility

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has directly asked tech companies to take on more responsibility for the way their platforms are used.

Ardern made an address at the Chirstchurch Call summit in Paris to seven world leaders and several leaders from the tech world.

The Prime Minister said she stood before the gathered leaders “with the 51 lives lost in New Zealand heavy on my mind.”

Ardern said that the attack had been specifically designed go viral online.

“The sheer scale of its reach was staggering. It’s hard to quantify the harm this caused. But the fact it caused harm is unquestionable. Thousands of New Zealanders called our nationwide mental health support line saying the video was causing them distress.”

She directly asked that the tech companies present – including Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Microsoft – to treat the problem as seriously as possible, as their huge size gave them a lot of responsibility.

“I know that none of you want your platforms to perpetuate and amplify terrorism and extremist violence. But these platforms have grown at such pace, with such popularity, that we are all now dealing with consequences you may not have imagined when your company was just a start-up. Your scale and influence brings a burden of responsibility.

“I know what we are doing isn’t simple, and that our goal – of eliminating the upload of this kind of content is ambitious – but it is also necessary.”

“We ask that you assess how your algorithms funnel people to extremist content and make transparent that work.”

“Some of this is already under way. But we need to see the progress you are making. We are asking you to report regularly in a verifiable and measurable way.”

A Christchurch Call agreement has now been signed by 17 Governments and a number of the major tech companies. The US has endorsed but not signed it.

See Tech companies, 17 Governments sign up to ‘Christchurch Call’


Facebook tightening livestreaming rules

Just prior to signing the Christchurch Call agreement in Paris Facebook announced that they are tightening rules on livestreaming.

Reuters: Facebook restricts Live feature, citing New Zealand shooting

Facebook Inc said on Tuesday it was tightening rules around its livestreaming feature ahead of a meeting of world leaders aimed at curbing online violence in the aftermath of a massacre in New Zealand.

Facebook said in a statement it was introducing a “one-strike” policy for use of Facebook Live, temporarily restricting access for people who have faced disciplinary action for breaking the company’s most serious rules anywhere on its site.

First-time offenders will be suspended from using Live for set periods of time, the company said. It is also broadening the range of offences that will qualify for one-strike suspensions.

Facebook did not specify which offences were eligible for the one-strike policy or how long suspensions would last, but a spokeswoman said it would not have been possible for the shooter to use Live on his account under the new rules.

The company said it plans to extend the restrictions to other areas over coming weeks, beginning with preventing the same people from creating ads on Facebook.

It also said it would fund research at three universities on techniques to detect manipulated media, which Facebook’s systems struggled to spot in the aftermath of the attack.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has responded:

Comment from Jacinda Ardern on Facebook livestreaming announcement

“Facebook’s decision to put limits on livestreaming is a good first step to restrict the application being used as a tool for terrorists and shows the Christchurch Call is being acted on,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

“Today’s announcement addresses a key component of the Christchurch Call, a shared commitment to making livestreaming safer.

“The March 15 terrorist highlighted just how easily livestreaming can be misused for hate. Facebook has made a tangible first step to stop that act being repeated on their platform.

“Facebook’s announcement of new research into detecting manipulated media across images, video and audio in order to take it down is welcomed.

“Multiple edited and manipulated versions of the March 15 massacre quickly spread online, and the take down was slow as a result. New technology to prevent the easy spread of terrorist content will be a major contributor to making social media safer for users, and stopping the unintentional viewing of extremist content like so many people in New Zealand did after the attack, including myself, when it auto played in Facebook feeds.

“The Christchurch Call gets agreement from tech companies to take initiatives to end the spread of terrorist content online. There is a lot more work to do, but I am pleased Facebook has taken additional steps today alongside the Call and look forward to a long term collaboration to make social media safer by removing terrorist content from it.”


Jacinda Ardern on CNN on gun laws and extremist use of social media

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda is getting more international attention after speaking to CNN as she prepares for meetings and a summit in Paris on the use of social media by violent extremists.

CNN:  New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern ‘does not understand’ why US has failed to toughen gun laws

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she does “not understand” why the United States has not passed stronger gun laws in the aftermath of mass shooting events.

Ahead of a summit on online extremism, Ardern was responding to a question by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour asking whether countries can learn from New Zealand.

The Prime Minister said guns have a “practical purpose” in New Zealand but “that does not mean you need access to military-style semiautomatic weapons and assault rifles.”

“Australia experienced a massacre and changed their laws. New Zealand had its experience and changed its laws. To be honest, I do not understand the United States”.

On Ardern’s ‘Christchurch Call’:

Ardern told CNN on Tuesday that the meeting “is not about regulation, it is about bringing companies to the table,” adding that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has given “Facebook’s support to this call to action.”

The focus will “very much be on violent extremism,” she said. The pledge will not limit or curtail “the freedom of expression.”

Facebook removed 1.5 million videos of the Christchurch attacks in the first 24 hours after the massacre. It also blocked 1.2 million of them at upload, meaning they would not have been seen by users.

“When it came to the way this attack was specifically designed to be broadcast and to go viral, (responding) to that needed a global solution, so that was why we immediately got in contact with international counterparts”.

RNZ also covered this, and have details on what is happening in Paris.

Ms Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron are hosting the meeting of world leaders and tech giants to look at how to stop extremism spreading online.

Heads of state from Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Norway, Jordan, Senegal, Indonesia and the European Union are attending, though US President Donald Trump is absent.

Ms Ardern said co-operation on ending extremist content online was the least that should be expected from Facebook.

Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook is absent from the meeting but the social media company’s vice-president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, is there.

“I’ve spoken to Mark Zuckerberg directly, twice now, and actually we’ve had good ongoing engagement with Facebook. Last time I spoke to him a matter of days ago he did give Facebook support to this call to action.”

Ms Ardern said governments cannot ignore the way people are being radicalised, and had a role to play in preventing it.

The Prime Minister is holding a series of one-on-one meetings today with British Prime Minister Theresa May, the King of Jordan, Norway’s Elna Solberg and Twitter boss Jack Dorsey.

She will have an hour-long lunch with the French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace ahead of the Christchurch Call summit. Tomorrow, she will attend the Tech for Good dinner where she’ll make a speech before a meeting with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

There have been some questions about whether Ardern will achieve anything in Paris. I think that’s premature.  She has already achieved some significant attention, including the involvement of some other world leaders.

We will see what suggestions or plans come out of the Paris initiative over the next day or two, but I expect it will take time for things to change.

We won’t know for some time how effective any changes might be.


Attendance at Ardern and Macron’s social media summit in Paris

New Zealand prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is co-chairing a meeting with world leaders and the tech industry with French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Thursday (NZ time), to build support for Ardern’s “Christchurch Call” – a pledge to try to stop violent extremist content from spreading online.

Ardern explained her aims in an op-ed in the NY Times – see Jacinda Ardern ‘opinion’ in NY Times.

There aren’t a lot of world leaders attending in Paris – short notice would have made it difficult for some – but enough to make it a worthwhile attempt to get things rolling. Actually too many leaders may have made it more difficult to get agreement

Stuff: Who is and isn’t coming to Jacinda Ardern’s Paris summit on social media

This week’s meeting is being co-chaired by French President Macron. France is hosting the G7 Digital Summit, which sits alongside the Christchurch Call meeting.

The pledge will be launched two months to the day after the terror attack in Christchurch, which the alleged killer livestreamed on Facebook.

She will be joined by UK Prime Minister Theresa May, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Senegal President Macky Sall, and King Abdullah II of Jordan.

Ardern said talks were “ongoing” with the United States, where most of these large firms are based, but it was clear President Donald Trump would not be making the trip.

Because of a quirk of tax law however, many of the companies have vast subsidiaries based in Ireland, who are sending a leader.

Facebook itself is sending head of global affairs, and former UK deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg.

Zuckerberg did travel to Paris to meet Macron on Friday, who he has an ongoing relationship with.

Ardern has engaged with both Zuckerberg and Sandberg following the attack. She told Stuff it would have been preferable for Zuckerberg to attend, but she was more interested in a concrete result than who attended.

“Would we have found it preferable to have Mark Zuckerberg there? Absolutely. However the most important point for me is a commitment from Facebook. I would absolutely trade having them sign up to this than anything around a presence at this event. It’s the action that is important to us.”

Twitter is the only tech company sending its chief executive, Jack Dorsey. Microsoft is sending President Brad Smith while Wikimedia is sending Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. Google is sending Senior Vice President for Global Affairs Kent Walker.

I expect that any of the tech companies would have to approve any commitments through their management so it’s unlikely the Christchurch Call summit in Paris will provide anything like a final solution to violent extremist content online, but it is a step in the right direction.

Jordan Carter on how to eliminate terrorist and violent material online

Jordan Carter, CEO of InternetNZ, has some ideas on how to help make Jacinda Ardern’s ‘Christchurch call’ work.

(I really wonder if labelling the attempt by Ardern to get social media companies to ‘eliminate’ terrorism online the ‘Christchurch call’ is a good idea. I think it is inappropriate.)

The Spinoff:  How to stop the ‘Christchurch Call’ on social media and terrorism falling flat

If we take that goal of eliminating terrorist and violent material online as a starting point, what could such a pledge look like, and what could it usefully achieve?

The scope needs to stay narrow.

“Terrorist and violent extremist content” is reasonably clear though there will be definitional questions to work through to strike the right balance in preventing the spread of such abhorrent material on the one hand, and maintaining free expression on the other. Upholding people’s rights needs to be at the core of the Call and what comes from it.

The targets need to be clear.

From the media release announcing the initiative, the focus is on “social media platforms”. I take that to mean companies like Facebook, Alphabet (through YouTube), Twitter and so on. These are big actors with significant audiences that can have a role in publishing or propagating access to the terrorist and violent extremist content the Call is aimed at. They have the highest chance of causing harm, in other words. It is a good thing the Call does not appear to target the entire Internet. This means the scale of action is probably achievable, because there are a relatively small and identifiable number of platforms of the requisite scale or reach.

But online media keeps changing so it will be difficult to set a clear target. I think that limiting ‘scale and reach’ to a small number of companies would be a problem, it would be very simple to work around. If there are worldwide rules on use of social media it would have to cover all social media to be effective.

The ask needs to be clear.

Most social media platforms have community standards that explicitly prohibit terrorist and violent extremist content, alongside many other things. If we assume for now that the standards are appropriate (a big assumption, one that needs more consideration later on), the Call’s ask needs to centre around the standards being consistently implemented and enforced by the platforms.

Working back from a “no content ever will breach these standards” approach and exploring how AI and machine tools, and human moderation, can help should be the focus of the conversation.

That’s not very clear to me.

There needs to be a sensible application of the ask.

Applying overly tight automated filtering would lead to very widespread overblocking. What if posting a Radio New Zealand story about the Sri Lanka attacks over the weekend on Facebook was automatically blocked? Imagine if a link to a donations site for the victims of the Christchurch attacks led to the same outcome? How about sharing a video of TV news reports on either story?

This is why automation is unlikely to be the whole answer. We also will need to think through carefully about how any action arising from the Call won’t give cover for problematic actions by countries with no commitment to the free, open and secure internet.

It will be extremely difficult to get consistent agreement on effective control between all social media companies and all countries. If there are variances there will be exploitation by terrorists and promoters of violence.

Success needs measuring and failure needs to have a cost.

There needs to be effective monitoring that the commitments are being met. A grand gesture followed by nothing changing isn’t an acceptable outcome. If social media platforms don’t live up to the commitments that they make, the Call can be a place where governments agree that a kind of cost can be imposed. The simplest and most logical costs would tend to be financial (e.g. a reduction in the protection such platforms have from liability for content posted on them). But as a start, the Call can help harmonise initial thinking on potential national and regional regulation around these issues.

How could cost penalties be applied fairly and effectively where there is a huge range of sizes and budgets of social media companies? A million dollars is small change for Facebook, a thousand dollars would be a big deal for me.

The discussion needs to be inclusive.

Besides governments and the social media platforms, the broader technology sector and various civil society interests should be in the room helping to discuss and finalise the Call. This is because the long history of Internet policy-making shows that you get the best outcomes when all the relevant voices are in the room. Civil society plays a crucial role in helping make sure blind spots on the part of big players like government and platforms aren’t overlooked. We can’t see a situation where governments and tech companies finalise the call, and the tech sector and civil society are only brought in on the “how to implement” stage.

I don’t know how you could get close to including all relevant voices. The Internet is huge, vast.

A Call that took account of these six thoughts would have a chance of success. To achieve change it would need one more crucial point, which is why the idea of calling countries, civil society and tech platforms together is vital.

I think it is going to take a lot more than this. It’s a huge challenge.