Jacinda Ardern has no plans to join global Facebook boycott because 'progress has been made'

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has no plans to join the global Facebook advertising boycott against hate speech on the platform because "progress has been made" and she wants to stay connected to voters.

Hundreds of global companies including Honda and Levi Strauss have joined the Stop Hate for Profit campaign by pausing advertising on Facebook for a month in the hopes of pressing the company to take a stronger stand on hate speech.

New Zealand's largest newspaper group Stuff is putting its relationship with Facebook and Instagram on pause, with an instruction to staff to stop posting breaking news and stories to those platforms immediately.

The Prime Minister regularly updates her 1.3 million followers with impromptu Facebook Live videos, and while she agrees that "change needs to occur on our social media platforms", she will not join the boycott. 

"Politicians don't have some of those same options. We see part of our critical job as talking with voters - making sure that people have a way of contacting us. But I still see that there is an argument for those platforms to change."

Ardern said she first gave consideration to the relationship between politics and social media after the March 15, 2019 Christchurch terror attack, when the accused gunman Brenton Tarrant livestreamed the atrocity on Facebook. 

It led Ardern to establish the Christchurch Call alongside French President Emmanuel Macron, a commitment by governments and tech companies to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online. 

The Christchurch Call helped to bring governments and tech companies together to stop and prevent attacks like the one in Christchurch by coordinating responses to attempts at using the internet as a terrorist weapon. 

Ardern said she would prefer to rely on formal groups holding social media to account, such as the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT), a group of tech companies including Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter, who aim to share information on tackling terrorist content.

Inspired by the Christchurch Call's multi-stakeholder approach, it became an independent organisation in 2019.

"At this stage my strong view is still that we need to keep trying to make progress through those forums," Ardern said. "My decision not to do a Facebook Live I don't believe is going to make that same inroad."

Facebook has been criticised for its decision to allow controversial posts by US President Donald Trump to stay up, including one in which Trump said of the protests in Minneapolis: "when the looting starts, the shooting starts". 

Twitter, on the other hand, added labels to Trump's tweets that suggested he was glorifying violence and making inaccurate statements. 

Facebook's VP of global affairs and communications Nick Clegg wrote earlier this month that Facebook "does not profit from hate" but he said "rooting out the hate is like looking for a needle in a haystack". 

But Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has often talked about the importance of maintaining free speech and that the best way to hold the powerful to account is at the ballot box. 

The Facebook ad boycott aims to hurt the social network's $70 billion in annual ad revenue. 

But the company has brushed it off, with a spokesperson telling The Guardian: "We make policy changes based on principles, not revenue pressures."

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