US joins the 'Christchurch Call' to wipe out online terror content

The White House has announced that the US will join the Christchurch Call to Action to try and eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.

The Christchurch Call to Action was initiated by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Paris almost two years ago and co-chaired with French President Emmanuel Macron following the 15 March terror attacks in Christchurch.

Big tech firms including Amazon, Facebook, Google and Twitter all signed up to the pledge, with Ardern saying last month that it was unrealistic to expect the internet to be free from all content that is of concern and the goal was to get "meaningful progress" to reducing this content and reacting quickly if there was to be a situation like the Christchurch attack.

"Countering the use of the internet by terrorists and violent extremists to radicalize and recruit is a significant priority for the United States. Joining the coalition of governments and companies that have endorsed the Christchurch Call to Action reinforces the need for collective action," the White House statement said.

The statement said that the United States applauds the language used in the Christchurch Call which it said emphasized "the importance of respecting human rights and the rule of the law, including the protection of freedom of expression".

"In joining the Christchurch Call, the United States will not take steps that would violate the freedoms of speech and association protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, nor violate reasonable expectations of privacy," it said.

The US looks forward to participating in a virtual summit on May 14 to mark the second anniversary of the Christchurch Call, it said.

Former US President Donald Trump spurned a request by Adern and Macron to provide an endorsement of the Christchurch Call.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said the support from the US signalled the importance the United States placed on this work.

"The United States has been a constructive, engaged partner on many Call-related issues since its launch. This announcement is a formalisation of that relationship and a commitment for us to work even more closely on eliminating terrorist and violent extremist content online.

"The Call is open to governments and tech companies that can meet its commitments in a manner consistent with international human rights law, fundamental freedoms including freedom of expression, and in support of a free, open and secure internet.

"The United States actively shares and promotes these values and is a critically important partner in shared efforts against terrorism and violent extremism online. Formal US support of the Christchurch Call is a positive extension of this long-held partnership with both New Zealand and France."