PM Jacinda Ardern wants global action against social media giants like Facebook

As Australia and the UK push ahead with strict new laws for social media companies, Jacinda Ardern wants them all to work together.

The Prime Minister was asked this week about her reaction to the UK proposing an independent watchdog that would create a "code of practice" for technology giants such as Facebook and Twitter.

The joint proposal from the UK's Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Home Office, would also give the regulator powers to fine those companies for breaking rules, and the ability to fine executives and block websites.

Ardern did not comment on whether New Zealand would follow the UK in light of the alleged Christchurch shooter live-streaming the event on Facebook. Instead, she called for global unison to crack down on social media companies.

"What we're looking to is whether or not there's a global appetite for us to move collectively," she said on Tuesday, adding that she has spoken with British Prime Minister Theresa May to trade ideas.

"We've offered to keep exchanging ideas, but at this stage I'm in the process of seeing what other countries have done and what might be possible."

Ardern acknowledged that New Zealand had a responsibility around social media restrictions after Christchurch since Facebook was "used in a way that it hasn't been before".

Jacinda Ardern and Theresa May.
Jacinda Ardern and Theresa May. Photo credit: Reuters

After all, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has pushed ahead with plans to introduce jail terms and massive fines for social media providers that don't act on removing violent material quickly enough.

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.

But Ardern didn't seem convinced that domestic legislation will help. She said she would like to see the global community come together and establish one collective voice on the issue.

"It's all good and well to have domestic legislation that we think is going to do the trick, but in my view it will be all the more strengthened if we had the international community asking the same thing."

Despite the backlash against Facebook failing to fully remove the alleged Christchurch shooter's livestream from the platform after the attack, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg says he won't make any changes to its live-streaming platform.

The reaction angered the Privacy Commissioner, John Edwards, who launched an attack this week on the company, labelling its bosses "morally bankrupt pathological liars who enable genocide".

Mark Zuckerberg.
Mark Zuckerberg. Photo credit: Reuters

Zuckerberg's reaction would put pressure on Ardern and other leaders to act, since, according to the Privacy Commissioner, the Communications Decency Act in the US says platforms and carriers have no liability for content.

Ardern pointed to European countries that have restricted social media companies, such as Germany, which introduced legislation last year that gave them a timeframe of 24 hours to take down illegal content, or face fines of up to €50 million (NZ$83.5 million).

The problem, Ardern said, is that "none are exactly the same". She said her question would be: "Do those legislative tools answer the questions and challenges that we faced through 15 March, [and] if they don't [then] what should we ask? And should we be asking together?"

Ardern said New Zealand's view is that it would be "more meaningful if we try and move as a global community". She said some in the social media space have raised with her the issue of different countries having different restrictions.

"Perhaps the power will be when we speak with one voice."