How Helen Clark would regulate Facebook's livestreaming

Helen Clark would introduce a delay to Facebook livestreaming so regulators could have more time to crackdown on extremist content. 

The former Prime Minister said Facebook's livestreaming tool is used responsibly "99.9 percent of the time", and brushed off propositions it should be banned. 

When asked if the tool should be regulated, Clark suggested introducing a broadcast delay, telling The Project: "That's how I'd deal with it in the short-term: have a delay."

In the wake of the March 15 Christchurch terror attack which left 51 people dead, Facebook has announced it's applying a "one strike" policy for those who commit offenses relating to its livestream service. 

Facebook vice president of integrity Guy Rosen said the company had been reviewing what could be done to limit services spreading hate after the alleged Christchurch gunman streamed the shooting live on the platform.  

Since then Facebook has come under intense scrutiny after it was revealed there was one upload per second of the video in the first 24 hours, and that it had to be removed from Facebook over 1.5 million times.

While Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is in Paris trying to rally support for a global framework around social media regulations under the 'Christchurch Call', Clark said social media is "overwhelmingly a force for good". 

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark.
Former Prime Minister Helen Clark. Photo credit: Getty

"Facebook started off as a platform where you could connect with your family and your friends. But of course, the bad side of our human society decided it had use for them, as well."

She said in extreme cases, "we see what happens in Christchurch, and that's why the Prime Minister's in Paris right now, because she is leading the Christchurch Call to get effective action against terrorist and violent extremist content online". 

Clark launched an independent think tank this year called The Helen Clark Foundation which has looked at reducing the spread of harmful content on social media. 

A paper by the Foundation has recommended the New Zealand Law Commission carry out a review of laws around social media. It said while there are several laws protecting against harmful content, there's "significant gaps" too. 

It noted how currently social media platforms operating in New Zealand are "subject to a patchwork of regulation" by the Ministry of Justice, the Department of Internal Affairs, Netsafe, the Privacy Commission, and the police.

"Social media companies in New Zealand are largely left to self-regulate how they monitor and remove harmful content in line with internal policies and guidelines."

Media outlets in New Zealand are held to account by the New Zealand Media Council (NZMC) which enforces rules such as fairness and balance - but overseas-based social media companies have not agreed to abide by these principles.

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark and current Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Former Prime Minister Helen Clark and current Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Getty

But if the independent regulatory body adopted a similar NZMC model, the report said its success would depend on the voluntary co-operation and compliance of its member organisations as it would have no statutory powers. 

Clark, who has almost 195,000 followers on Twitter, said she enjoys social media and wouldn't like to see it banned. She said New Zealand's a democracy where free speech is valued - "but as we know, there are things that go completely off the wall". 

She told The Project: "So that's the area that the paper zones in on. The Christchurch massacre was filmed, live-streamed for 17 minutes with no one doing anything. That has been a catalyst for action."

The paper also recommended New Zealand establish an independent regulatory body to oversee social media companies in New Zealand - similar to what's been recommended in the UK. 

It suggested imposing a statutory duty of care on social media companies, where they would need to invest in and take reasonable measures to prevent harm by, for example, by improving their technology-based responses. 

When asked if she's optimistic social media companies would even comply, Clark responded: "Yes, I am. I think people have had enough and Christchurch really focused the issues globally."