Winston Peters backs Jacinda Ardern's crusade against online 'emotional terrorism'

Winston Peters believes social media companies need to be held to account and play a role in eliminating the spread of "emotional terrorism".

Peters, the Deputy Prime Minister, told Magic Talk: "What is required is to take off this continuous, what you might call emotional terrorism type of behaviour which is contaminating so many minds."

"We've got to ensure social responsibility like you see in the print and airwaves and televisions of the world, that that is imposed on Facebook as well."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is co-hosting the Christchurch Call summit in Paris this week with French President Emmanuel Macron, where discussions will take place over ways to keep people safe online.

Ardern told Newshub this week change around social media is necessary after the March 15 Christchurch terror attack in which 51 people died. She said she aims to bring about that change "collaboratively".

Peters, who is currently in Suva for the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders' meeting, told Magic Talk 'new media' companies like Facebook need to have clearer responsibilities like those for mainstream media outlets.

"Whether it be print media, radio or television - there is a serious sense of responsibility for standards, so why shouldn't new media, no matter what it is, have similar requirements?"

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters.
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters. Photo credit: AAP

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

The Prime Minister has been outspoken about the need for tech giants like Facebook to be held to account after the alleged 28-year-old Christchurch gunman live-streamed the shooting on Facebook, sparking outrage around the world.

It prompted Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg to say the social media company would look at strengthening the rules for using Facebook Live and explore restrictions around who can use it.

Experts have pointed out that despite good intentions around the Paris summit, Ardern has said the Christchurch Call framework will not be binding, and that it could be difficult to get global companies to commit to obligations.

International law expert at the University of Waikato, Professor Alexander Gillespie, pointed out that the only international restraints on such enterprises are soft regulation - like the Global Compact

Some countries have taken internet regulation upon themselves, such as Germany which introduced its Network Enforcement Act which requires hate speech to be removed from social media platforms within 24 hours or face huge fines.

Australia passed similar legislation last month, whereby companies such as Facebook and YouTube could be subject to huge fines, and their executives threatened with jail time, if they don't remove inappropriate material promptly.

In the UK, a white paper released earlier this year by the British Government set out a proposal for new regulations requiring companies to show how they're tackling the spread of illegal content. It would be overseen by an independent regulator.

Otago University Professor Alistair Knott said leaders at the Paris summit might also want to consider exercising some control over the algorithms that choose items for users' feeds on sites like Facebook.

"Small changes could potentially have large effects in reducing the polarisation of opinions that lead to extremism."