The White House has refused to join French President Emmanuel Macron, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and a host of tech executives in a vow to curb the spread of online hate and extremism. Dubbed the “Christchurch Call,” the pledge was named after the New Zealand city where a terrorist slaughtered 51 people while broadcasting the attack live on the internet.
Executives from Facebook, Google, and Twitter joined Macron and Ardern in coming up with a set of guidelines to help prevent similar occurrences in the future. “It ultimately commits us all to build a more human internet, which cannot be misused by terrorists for their hateful purposes,” said PM Ardern at a news conference.
But the U.S. won’t get on board, suggesting that the agreement would pose a danger to freedom of speech and freedom of the press. In a statement to The Washington Post, the White House said it will “continue to be proactive in our efforts to counter terrorist content online.”
They added, “While the United States is not currently in a position to join the endorsement, we continue to support the overall goals reflected in the call.”
Echoing the White House position, former Secretary of State John Kerry said that while “a higher level of responsibility is demanded from all of the platforms,” it’s necessary to find a way to combat online extremism without censoring speech. “It’s a hard line to draw sometimes,” he said.
Joining New Zealand and France in drafting the pledge were a dozen other countries, including Australia, Canada, Germany, India, Italy, Norway, Senegal, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Other tech giants to participate in the “Christchurch Call” were Amazon, Microsoft, and YouTube.
According to the Associated Press, the tech companies committed to a nine-point plan “to prevent the spread of terrorist or violent extremist content. That may include cooperating on developing technology or expanding the use of shared digital signatures.”
Facebook has already tightened its policies regarding live streaming. CNN reports that under Facebook’s new policy, the Christchurch shooter would not have been able to livestream the attack from his account. In fact, Facebook removed 1.5 million videos of the Christchurch massacre within 24 hours of the incident, and it blocked 1.2 million more at upload.
Parentology reached out to Twitter to ask how they feel about the U.S. position on the “Christchurch Call.” They declined to comment.