French President Emmanuel Macron and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern launched the Christchurch Appeal in Paris on Wednesday, an initiative that commits governments and those responsible for large Internet companies to act together to prevent and eliminate terrorist content and extremist violence in social networks. "We are going to prevent social networks from being used as tools by terrorists," Ardern proclaimed in a press conference together with Macron after the meeting at the Elysee.
The Call of Christchurch takes the name of the New Zealand city where, two months ago, an Australian far-right killed 51 people in two mosques. The attack was broadcasted live by its author, Brenton Tarrant, through social networks. "It was conceived to be viral," Ardern stressed this week on a platform in The New York Times and in an interview with Le Monde.
The Call, negotiated and agreed at a meeting of leaders and leaders of technology companies in Paris on Wednesday, stresses that the online dissemination of violent content such as Christchurch "has a negative impact on the human rights of victims, on security collective and in people around the world. " In this sense, governments and Internet platforms are committed in a "collective" and "voluntary" to take specific steps to block this type of content through the application of laws and social awareness or, in the case of technology, "implement immediate and effective measures to mitigate the specific risk that terrorist content or violent extremism will be disseminated through real-time broadcasts ".
Facebook ensured that, in the first 24 hours after the Christchurch attacks, it eliminated more than 1.5 million videos of the attack, 1.2 million of them in the first hour since they were uploaded. However, thousands of people could see it before the Mark Zuckerberg company reacted. Also, remember until today Ardern, "during the first 24 hours, the video was uploaded to the YouTube platform every second".
The popular platform announced, hours before the approval of the document in Paris, that it will prohibit the use of its Live application, which allows video to be broadcast in real time, to any user that violates the rules of the social network about organizations or dangerous individuals.
The Paris meeting achieved the adoption of the document by France and New Zealand, as well as by Canada, Ireland, Jordan, Norway, United Kingdom, Senegal, Indonesia and the European Commission, all represented by their top leaders. On the technological side, it is signed by the giants Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Qwant, Twitter, YouTube and DailyMotion. The Elysée stressed in a statement that countries such as Spain, Australia, Germany, India, Japan, Holland or Sweden also "support" the Call of Christchurch. The absence of a key country in the development of the Internet, such as the United States, is striking. Macron said that Washington has assured that "it shares the objectives," although he acknowledged that at the moment he has no plans to sign the commitment.
It is no coincidence that the Christchurch meeting took place in Paris, headquarters this week of VivaTech, one of the main fairs of new technologies in the world and that brings together in the French capital the top managers of the field.
Since last year, on the eve of VivaTech, the French government is holding the Tech for Good summit, which is discussing "the contribution of technology to the common good and the fight against digital threats". At the meeting this year, the heads of 80 large companies, startups and other actors from the digital world have been invited. At the dinner held on Wednesday night Macron in the Elysee, entrepreneurs were expected to attend as the head of Alibaba Jack Ma, the head of Huawei Ken Hu or Dara Khoroshahi, of Uber.
In addition, France has been promoting the European framework for measures to restrict incitement to hatred in social networks. The government is working on a law that would force social networks to remove the contents reported in 24 hours, under threat of heavy fines. Paris wants this regulation to be approved at European level.
France also chairs this year the G7, in which the Secretary of State for digital, Cédric O, gathered on Wednesday to his colleagues from the seven most industrialized countries in the world to work on a draft letter of commitment on the "regulation and transparency "with online platforms that allow" to intervene quickly in case of dissemination of violent content ". The French objective is that this letter "for an open and non-violent Internet" is assumed by the heads of State and Government of the G7 during its annual summit, next August in Biarritz.
The will to respect human rights and, specifically, freedom of expression is explicit in the Christchurch Appeal. However, organizations dedicated to the promotion and defense of these rights are concerned by the measures adopted in Paris and by their possible unexpected implications on the part of regimes that could be tempted to use this initiative to restrict pro-democracy activities, describing them as "terrorists" .
The Christchurch Appeal fails to define terrorism and violent extremism at a time when governments around the world are abusing anti-terrorist laws, for example to silence political opponents and the media in Russia and Turkey, or to attack Protestants and activists in United Kingdom, "warned the executive director of the freedom of expression organization Article 19, Thomas Hughes.
In addition, he recalled that the option of broadcasting live as the one that has just restricted Facebook "can be used to harm, but it has also allowed the documentation of human rights abuses or the judicial persecution of those who have committed crimes."