New Zealand, France to lead world on ending social media use for terrorism

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced New Zealand and France will bring together countries and tech companies in an attempt to stop social media being used to promote terrorism.

It follows calls for social media companies to do more to regulate violent, extremist content on its platforms following the March 15 Christchurch attacks, which were livestreamed on Facebook.

A meeting co-chaired by Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron will take place on May 15 in Paris.

The meeting "aims to see world leaders and CEOs of tech companies agree to a pledge called the 'Christchurch Call' to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online."

It will be held alongside the Tech for Humanity meeting of G7 nations' digital ministers.

"We all need to act, and that includes social media providers taking more responsibility for the content that is on their platforms, and taking action so that violent extremist content cannot be published and shared," Ardern said.

Before the meeting, she will meet with civil society leaders to discuss the content of the Christchurch Call.

She said social media has been used in an "unprecedented way as a tool to promote an act of terrorism and hate" during the March 15 Christchurch mosque attacks.

"We're calling on the leaders of tech companies to join with us and help achieve our goal of eliminating violent extremism online at the Christchurch Summit in Paris.

"It’s critical that technology platforms like Facebook are not perverted as a tool for terrorism, and instead become part of a global solution to countering extremism."

Ardern said she recognises the positive ways social media can enhance people's lives, but it can also be dangerous. 

"Social media platforms can connect people in many very positive ways, and we all want this to continue.

"But for too long, it has also been possible to use these platforms to incite extremist violence, and even to distribute images of that violence, as happened in Christchurch. This is what needs to change."

On Tuesday, Finance Minister Grant Robertson confirmed to The AM Show that Ardern was talking with other world leaders about how to hold social media companies accountable for harmful content on their sites.

"I think it is really important that we look at this as a global issue. As a small country, New Zealand is never going to be able, on our own, to turn big multinational countries around.

"Frankly, the posting of videos and the rules that they put in place have to be global, because it doesn't actually matter where someone posts it, the beauty of the internet is that you have access to things from all around the world. But the damage is that that can get through so quickly."

A livestream of the Christchurch attacks spread across the internet after the shootings. While Facebook said it removed more than 1.5 million copies of the video within 24 hours, there are reports of it being seen online for days after the event.

Facebook's policy director Brian Fisherman reportedly told the United States congress that the company's livestream algorithm didn't detect the massacre because there wasn't "enough gore".

Ardern said in the wake of the shooting she was contacted by Facebook's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg.

"I haven't spoken to her directly, but she has reached out in acknowledgement of what has occurred here in New Zealand. This is an issue that I will look to be discussing directly with Facebook."

Facebook later banned white nationalist and seperatist content.

"Our conversations with members of civil society and academics who are experts in race relations around the world have confirmed that white nationalism and separatism cannot be meaningfully separated from white supremacy and organised hate groups," the company said in a statement.

Days after the attacks, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison wrote to the G20 chairman, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, asking for social media reform to be a top priority at the next annual meeting of world leaders.

"It is imperative that the global community works together to ensure that technology firms meet their moral obligation to protect the communities which they serve and from which they profit," he wrote, in a letter shared to Twitter.

Australia also pushed ahead with legislation to introduce jail terms and fines for social media providers that didn't act to remove violent material quickly.

Under Australia's proposed laws, offences would be punishable by three years' jail for executives of social media companies, or fines that could reach up to 10 percent of the platform's global annual turnover.

The United Kingdom also proposed introducing an independent watchdog to write a code of practise for technology companies.