Jacinda Ardern calls out social media companies in historic speech at birthplace of Facebook

Standing in the birthplace of Facebook - Harvard - the Prime Minister has used her keynote speech to call out social media companies for allowing the spread of disinformation.

Dressed in academic gowns and a kakahu made by more than 250 women, Jacinda Ardern said in her commencement speech there was a "pressing and urgent need" to address its algorithms and called for their transparency.

"The time has come for social media companies and other online providers to recognise their power and to act on it."

Ardern gave the speech to the 30,000-strong crowd at the esteemed ivy-league university in Boston, USA. She challenged the roughly 8,000 students graduating to choose how they address "being baited, or hated".

"To make a choice to treat difference with empathy and kindness."

The Prime Minister - who will meet with Twitter executives at the weekend - said differences needed to be discussed instead of creating division.

"We are at a precipice."

Ardern, detailing laws passed in New Zealand in the last decade, referenced banning semi-automatic weapons - two days after the Texas shooting - and taking abortion out of the Crimes Act - as Roe v Wade looks to be overturned by the United States Supreme Court.

Each point was met with an emphatic standing ovation.

Ardern said social media companies were born offering the promise of connection and reconnection, said Ardern, but had become spaces to reinforce people's own views because of their algorithms.

The platforms were neither "good, nor bad. It's a tool. And as with anything, it's the rules of the game and the way we engage with it that matters".

Ardern spoke of the responsibility she felt after the March 15 terror attack which was livestreamed and spread on social media and how out of that came the Christchurch Call to Action.

She did not directly reference the recent Buffalo shooting which was also livestreamed despite the work of the Christchurch Call.

Quoting former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto - who was the first person to give birth in office, Ardern the second - Ardern said "democracy can be fragile".

"For years it feels as though we have assumed that the fragility of democracy was determined by duration ... but that takes so much for granted."

Ardern said that ignored the fact strong democracies relied on "trust in institutions, expert and government - and that this can be built up over decades but torn down in mere years".

The discussion on how to strengthen democracies was "easily and wrongly" distorted into being opposed by free speech.

"But that fear is overshadowed by a greater fear of what will happen to our democracies if we don't firm up their foundations".

Her speech also included a number of jokes, including coming from a town next to Hobbiton and that of the 30 New Zealand students studying at the university "statistically at least one of them will be my cousin".

"There are some moments in life that make the world feel small and connected. This is not one of them.

"I am used to walking into a room in New Zealand and knowing at least someone.It is one of the beautiful and comforting aspects of living in a small country."

Find the full speech here.