White House declines to back Christchurch call to stamp out online extremism amid free speech concerns

DeepEnigma

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French President Emmanuel Macron and New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern attend a launching ceremony together with other state leaders for the 'Christchurch Appeal' against terrorism at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, May 15, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/Pool (Charles Platiau/Reuters)

By Tony Romm and
Drew Harwell
May 15 at 6:44 PM

The United States broke with 18 governments and five top American tech firms Wednesday by declining to endorse a New Zealand-led effort to curb extremism online, a response to the live-streamed shootings at two Christchurch mosques that killed 51.

White House officials said free-speech concerns prevented them from formally signing onto the largest campaign to date targeting extremism online. But it was another example of the United States standing at odds to some its closest allies.

Leaders from around the globe, including British Prime Minister Theresa May, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Jordan’s King Abdullah II, signed the “Christchurch Call,” which was unveiled at a gathering in Paris that had been organized by French President Emmanuel Macron and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter also signed on to the document, pledging to work more closely with one another and governments to make certain their sites do not become conduits for terrorism. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was among the attendees at the conference.

The document was nonbinding, but reflected the heightened global frustration with the inability of Facebook, Google and Twitter to restrain hateful posts, photos and videos that have spawned real-world violence.
The governments pledged to counter online extremism, including through new regulation, and to "encourage media outlets to apply ethical standards when depicting terrorist events online.”

The companies agreed to accelerate research and information sharing with governments in the wake of recent terrorist attacks. “It is right that we come together, resolute in our commitment to ensure we are doing all we can to fight the hatred and extremism that lead to terrorist violence,” Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter said in a joint statement. (Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

But the White House opted against endorsing the effort, and President Trump did not join the other leaders in Paris. The White House felt the document could present constitutional concerns, officials there said, potentially conflicting with the First Amendment, even though Trump previously has threatened to regulate social media out of concern that it’s biased against conservatives.

Hours after declining to sign the document, the White House escalated its war against social media by announcing an unprecedented campaign asking Internet users to share stories of when they thought they were censored by Facebook, Google’s YouTube and Twitter, companies the president frequently takes aim at for alleged political censorship.

Still, in a statement about the Christchurch Call, the White House said it stands “with the international community in condemning terrorist and violent extremist content online,” and supports the call’s goals. But the United States is “not currently in a position to join the endorsement.”

[Facebook, Google will join New Zealand in international pact against online extremism]

The White House’s decision against supporting the Christchurch Call drew criticism from some experts who’ve called for stronger regulation across the Web. Alistair Knott, a computer-science professor at the University of Otago in New Zealand, said the absence of a U.S. endorsement potentially would undercut the global argument for controlling how hate and violence spread online.

“It seems insufficient to say that free speech prevents the U.S. from doing something about violent extremist attacks,” said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond law school. “Congress should consider carefully crafted legislation that both protects core First Amendment interests and public safety.”

But others worried the Christchurch document could potentially blur the lines between government power and free expression.

“It’s hard to take seriously this administration’s criticism of extremist content, but it’s probably for the best that the United States didn’t sign,” said James Grimmelmann, a Cornell Tech law professor. “The government should not be in the business of ‘encouraging’ platforms to do more than they legally are required to — or than they could be required to under the First Amendment.”

“The government ought to do its ‘encouraging’ through laws that give platforms and users clear notice of what they’re allowed to do, not through vague exhortations that can easily turn into veiled threats,” Grimmelmann said.
For its part, the White House stressed it would continue to be “proactive in our efforts to counter terrorist content online while also continuing to respect freedom of expression and freedom of the press.”

The call is named for the New Zealand city where a shooter killed 51 people in a March attack that was broadcast on Facebook and posted afterward on other social media sites. Facebook, Google and Twitter struggled to take down copies of the violent video as fast as it spread on the Web, prompting an international backlash from regulators who felt malicious actors had evaded Silicon Valley’s defenses too easily. Before the attack, the shooter also posted a hate-filled manifesto online that included references to previous mass killings.

New Zealand’s Ardern said in a statement that the document was intended to help head off a repeat of the Christchurch attacks. “We’ve taken practical steps to try and stop what we experienced in Christchurch from happening again,” Ardern said.

Fewer than 200 people watched the live stream during the attack, which Facebook said it removed 29 minutes after it began. But within 24 hours, users had attempted to re-upload the video onto Facebook more than 1.5 million times. About 300,000 of those videos slipped through and were published on the site before being taken down by the site’s content-moderation teams and systems designed to automatically remove blacklisted content.

Tech companies on Wednesday said they’d pursue a nine-point plan of technical remedies designed to find and combat objectionable content, including instituting more user-reporting systems, more refined automatic detection systems, improved vetting of live-streamed videos and more collective development of organized research and technologies the industry could build and share.

The companies also promised to implement “appropriate checks on live-streaming,” with the aim of ensuring that videos of violent attacks aren’t broadcast widely, in real time, online. To that end, Facebook this week announced a new “one-strike” policy, in which users who violate its rules — such as sharing content from known terrorist groups — could be prohibited from using its live-streaming tools. The company has said such a restriction might have prevented the Christchurch shooter from broadcasting the attack using his account.

“Terrorism and violent extremism are complex societal problems that require an all-of-society response,” Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Twitter said in their joint statement. “For our part, the commitments we are making today will further strengthen the partnership that Governments, society and the technology industry must have to address this threat.”

The Christchurch Call reflects heightened global frustrations with Silicon Valley, which has struggled around the world to stop malicious actors from weaponizing social media platforms to deadly ends. Facebook has been linked to ethnic violence in Sri Lanka, for example, and the company has admitted it failed to prevent the platform from becoming a tool to foster genocide in Myanmar.

[Why won’t the U.S. change its gun laws? New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern says: ‘I do not understand.’]

In response, regulators have introduced or adopted tough new rules over the past year that require social media sites to take down offensive content faster or face tough fines. French regulators, meanwhile, positioned a top government official at Facebook to study the company’s efforts to combat hate speech for six months.

U.S. officials also have struggled with the rise of online extremism and its ability to incite real-world violence. Self-proclaimed neo-Nazis used Facebook as an organizing tool ahead of the deadly 2017 rally in Charlottesville, for example, and the shooter who opened fire on a synagogue in Pittsburgh last year had long posted anti-Semitic screeds on fringe websites.

But even federal policymakers who have grown furious with Silicon Valley have struggled to rein in the industry without violating the First Amendment, which protects even repugnant speech. The issue loomed large over U.S. officials as they decided whether to endorse the Christchurch Call, White House officials told The Post, even though Trump has expressed openness to regulating social media sites in other contexts, including in response to concerns that they are politically biased against conservatives.

The disagreement over the Christchurch Call highlighted a long-simmering tension between officials in Europe, which has traditionally shown a greater willingness to rein in and regulate Internet firms, and the United States, where companies are given broad leeway to police themselves.

[8chan looks like a terrorist recruiting site after the New Zealand shootings. Should the government treat it like one?]

Adrian Shahbaz, a research director at Freedom House, a think tank partially funded by the U.S. government, said he was “alarmed by the vague call for governments to ban more speech” in a way that could have “negative consequences for human rights.”

Greater regulation on tech companies is needed, but “we shouldn’t be calling on tech companies to remove content without also demanding that they act with far more transparency and accountability,” he said. “Otherwise, companies will censor first and ask questions later, leaving users with little recourse to appeal poor decisions and uphold their right to free expression.”

Signers included Australia, Canada, the European Commission, France, Germany, Indonesia, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Senegal, Spain, Sweden and Britain.

I'll buy that for a dollar.
 

DeepEnigma

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White House REFUSES Major International Call For Censorship Online



It is called, The First Amendment. 🇺🇸
 
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Nobody_Important

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New Zealand is starting to milk this shooting.
Yeah how dare a country use a terrorist attack as an excuse to try to make changes to make itself and others safe even if it means encroaching on some of the rights of its citizens.


Good thing the US has never ever done that. 🙄
 
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DeepEnigma

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Yeah how dare a country use a terrorist attack as an excuse to try to make changes to make itself and others safe even if it means encroaching on some of the rights of its citizens.


Good thing the US has never ever done that. 🙄
The good ole, appeal to emotion, to infringe on the 99.9% of the law abiding populaces civil liberties.
 

Nobody_Important

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The good ole, appeal to emotion, to infringe on the 99.9% of the law abiding populaces civil liberties.
I thought cracking down on online extremism is something the Right has been begging for ever since Twitter and Facebook have started banning people for breaking their terms of service? I have seen multiple people point out that ISIS and other extremists are still active on such platforms.


Isn't stamping out online extremism a good thing? I figured this would have been something both sides could agree on for once.
 

DeepEnigma

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I thought cracking down on online extremism is something the Right has been begging for ever since Twitter and Facebook have started banning people for breaking their terms of service? I have seen multiple people point out that ISIS and other extremists are still active on such platforms.


Isn't stamping out online extremism a good thing? I figured this would have been something both sides could agree on for once.
First, I am not on the right, so I am not going to play your game with that approach.

Cracking down on what they are defining as extremism with their slippery slopes, like PJW, Lauren Southern, etc., is more partisan led, than extremism. Extremists they are not, and yet they do overlook ISIS, and other forms on their platforms which is. Ironic.

But again, cracking down only pushes them more into the shadows, where if they are exposed, they are more easily identifiable and can be challenged.

God bless the first amendment. UK is showing at breakneck speeds of that dystopia due not not having a 1A, and it is most definitely showing how easy it is for them in infringe without a 2A to protect that as well.

Yes, this is a slippery slope, and no amount of verbal censorship will prevent these tragedies, only embolden them more.
 
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DeepEnigma

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First, I am not on the right, so I am not going to play your game with that approach.

Cracking down on what they are defining as extremism with their slippery slopes, like PJW, Lauren Southern, etc., is more partisan led, than extremism. Extremists they are not, and yet they do overlook ISIS, and other forms on their platforms which is. Ironic.

But again, cracking down only pushes them more into the shadows, where if they are exposed, they are more easily identifiable and can be challenged.

God bless the first amendment. UK is showing at breakneck speeds of that dystopia due not not having a 1A, and it is most definitely showing how easy it is for them in infringe without a 2A to protect that as well.

Yes, this is a slippery slope, and no amount of verbal censorship will prevent these tragedies, only embolden them more.
To add, of course Macron is all aboard with the rest of his ilk.

He has a real issue on his hands in France, where BOTH the LEFT (BLACK BLOC FAR LEFT TOO) and the RIGHT (EVEN FAR RIGHT) are UNITED in protesting him and his establishment bullshit. They see through this shit. All political spectrum's are UNITED with what started with the Yellow Vests. All political sides of the citizens protesting, see Macron as an invader dictating to a suppressed country.

This is a tool to censor this shit even more than they do. Wake the fuck up from your partisan slumbers, the political sides of the common folk in France are.
 
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oagboghi2

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Yeah how dare a country use a terrorist attack as an excuse to try to make changes to make itself and others safe even if it means encroaching on some of the rights of its citizens.


Good thing the US has never ever done that. 🙄
New Zealand can do whatever they want.

Don't drag your drag virtue signalling nonsense to the states please
 

Nobody_Important

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New Zealand can do whatever they want.

Don't drag your drag virtue signalling nonsense to the states please
I was trying to point out that New Zealand is using the terrorist attack they suffered to try and make changes. Which is exactly what the US did after 9/11
 

DeepEnigma

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I was trying to point out that New Zealand is using the terrorist attack they suffered to try and make changes. Which is exactly what the US did after 9/11
Great, and they can do what they want. But 17 other nations getting involved in this one world government scheme is where lines should be drawn. The US’s withdrawal due to our constitution should not be criticized, at all.
 

Nobody_Important

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Great, and they can do what they want. But 17 other nations getting involved in this one world government scheme is where lines should be drawn. The US’s withdrawal due to our constitution should not be criticized, at all.
One world government? Wtf are you talking about?
 

Solomeena

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I thought cracking down on online extremism is something the Right has been begging for ever since Twitter and Facebook have started banning people for breaking their terms of service? I have seen multiple people point out that ISIS and other extremists are still active on such platforms.


Isn't stamping out online extremism a good thing? I figured this would have been something both sides could agree on for once.
Meanwhile you and your ilk are trying to stamp out our freedom of speech under the guise of EXTREMISM!!!! Fuck that, if you don't like free speech and you actually do live in the USA, please move elsewhere. We true citizens of freedom don't need your nazi like approach.
 

Nobody_Important

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Meanwhile you and your ilk are trying to stamp out our freedom of speech under the guise of EXTREMISM!!!! Fuck that, if you don't like free speech and you actually do live in the USA, please move elsewhere. We true citizens of freedom don't need your nazi like approach.
Yeah look at me being against extremism. I'm such a fucking nazi. 🙄
 

oagboghi2

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I was trying to point out that New Zealand is using the terrorist attack they suffered to try and make changes. Which is exactly what the US did after 9/11
Pointless changes that restrict the freedoms of innocent people who never committed a crime. Just like the U.S.

This proposal wouldn't pass constitutional muster. We are right to turn away from it, because our country actually tries to value free speech.
 
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Nobody_Important

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Pointless changes that restrict the freedoms of innocent people who never committed a crime. Just like the U.S.

This proposal wouldn't pass constitutional muster. We are right to turn away from it, because our country actually tries to value free speech.
So you are okay with violent extremism being spread unchecked on social media and other parts of the internet? Because this would help stop that.
 
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Schrödinger's cat

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So you are okay with violent extremism being spread unchecked on social media and other parts of the internet?
Social media and the internet isn't inherently violent. It doesn't have sentience. It cannot commit a violent act.

Humans do that.

Instead of false equivalences and confirmation bias, try a tenuous grasp at reality.
Just once.
 
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Weilthain

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I was trying to point out that New Zealand is using the terrorist attack they suffered to try and make changes. Which is exactly what the US did after 9/11
I believe the USA was complicit in the 9/11 attacks for the reason of ramping up the war on terror to slowly take away people’s freedoms and keep the war machine going. Ultimately the goal is to make everyone ok with an authoritarian one world government as long as the controlled people believe it’s for the best.

That’s what I think anyway. But I also think space is fake.
 
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JimmyJones

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Is Macron there to talk about the Islamic extremism in France as well? Nah who am I kidding!
 

Nobody_Important

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I believe the USA was complicit in the 9/11 attacks for the reason of ramping up the war on terror to slowly take away people’s freedoms and keep the war machine going. Ultimately the goal is to make everyone ok with an authoritarian one world government as long as the controlled people believe it’s for the best.

That’s what I think anyway. But I also think space is fake.
 
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ArchaeEnkidu

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So you are okay with violent extremism being spread unchecked on social media and other parts of the internet? Because this would help stop that.
What you consider violent extremism is more than likely not what the vast majority of America considers violent extremism. Given your past contributions here, I would not trust you or others of similar mindset to yours with deciding such things. We would end up with prisons filled to bursting within the first few weeks.
 
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Nobody_Important

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What you consider violent extremism is more than likely not what the vast majority of America considers violent extremism. Given your past contributions here, I would not trust you or others of similar mindset to yours with deciding such things. We would end up with prisons filled to bursting within the first few weeks.
Last time I checked being banned from Twitter or Facebook didn't land you in Jail.
 

Nobody_Important

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We all know where you ultimately would like this to end up - these people in prisons and their lives ruined. I am just skipping ahead to that ultimate goal your ideology tries to push.
If you throw around racial/homophobic/transphobic/etc slurs on Twitter or Facebook like a fucking idiot and get banned I could not possibly care less what happens to your dumb ass after that, but I wont send you to jail just because you are a bigot.


But if you are are advocating for or trying to support racial or religious violence or some other kind of extremist/terrorist BS then yeah absolutely I think you should be in jail. I would like to think most people would agree with that.
 
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