Jacinda Ardern defends United States no-show at Christchurch Call

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has defended the United States Government after it didn't send a representative to the Christchurch Call in Paris.

World leaders and the world's tech behemoths were confronted head on in Paris with the horror of the March 15 Christchurch terror attack, that social media helped spread.

"The hearts of Aotearoa still ache. I stand before you with the 51 lives lost in New Zealand heavy on my mind," the Prime Minister said in her speech.

But there was one very glaring absence: no President Donald Trump - in fact, no presence from the United States Government at all.

When asked how much of a snub it was that the US wasn't represented at the summit, Ardern said there was "broad support for what we are trying to achieve with the Call".

"They issued a statement that gave broad support for the principles of what we were trying to achieve with the Call," she told Newshub in Paris.

Twitter's Jack Dorsey was the only social media chief executive to attend the Christchurch Call - a pledge by 16 countries and eight technology companies so far, to eliminate terrorist content from the internet.

Attendees were tasked with making sure an attack like Christchurch never happens again. It's a big ask - and changes that Facebook announced just before the summit would have actually made a difference.

Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris.
Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris. Photo credit: Getty

The changes mean users who breached Facebook rules would be temporarily blocked from livestreaming, and the alleged gunman had violated its terms.

If the livestreaming restrictions had been in place at the time of the Christchurch atrocity it would have prevented the terrorist using his livestreaming capability.

When asked what violations the alleged gunman had committed, Ardern said: "I'm very aware that this is a case before the courts. They rightly want to ensure that nothing is done to jeopardise that case."

All the companies at the Christchurch Call summit, including Twitter, Facebook, Google and YouTube, have signed up to the pledge.

So did the leaders of 17 countries including the French President, British Prime Minister Theresa May, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and King Abdullah II of Jordan. 

The pledge is just three pages long. Governments have made commitments like enforcing laws that stop the production and spread of terrorist content.

The companies have signed up to:

  • Take open, clear measures to stop videos like the alleged gunman's being uploaded.
  • Take immediate action on livestreaming extremist content and identifying it in real-time.
  • Review algorithms that could be driving users to terrorist content instead redirecting them to positive content instead.
  • And together develop a shared crisis response protocol to rapidly respond to online terrorism.

"It is only a first step," Ardern said.

But government co-operation got off to a terrible start.

New Zealand media were kicked out of the Call after just a minute, leaving only an official French camera - completely against the wishes of the New Zealand Government and creating a diplomatic incident.

Although this Christchurch Call pledge is nebulous with no real firm, tangible actions laid out, the enormity of this should not be underestimated.

The sheer speed of organising a meeting on this scale in the wake of the Christchurch attack is huge, and the fact it's happening at all with attendees of this calibre is unprecedented.

The Prime Minister has pulled off a blinder but the pressure is now on her and all these countries and companies to actually answer the Christchurch Call.