Paris — Social media giant Facebook, which has been facing enormous pressure in the wake of the Christchurch massacre in March, when the gunman broadcast his rampage over the Facebook Live platform, is now pledging to tighten its live streaming access saying that it will ban account holders who have shared extremist content.
Facebook made this announcement on Wednesday, even as two world leaders — New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern and France’s Emmanuel Macron — started an initiative entitled “Christchurch Call,” which is aimed to combat the proliferation of online hate speech, violence and extremism, two months to the day when a gunman opened fire on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 51 people and injuring another 50.
In a statement, Guy Rosen, Facebook vice-president of integrity, said,
“Following the horrific recent terrorist attacks in New Zealand, we’ve been reviewing what more we can do to limit our services from being used to cause harm or spread hate.”
In response to Facebook’s announcement, Prime Minister Ardern said, “There is a lot more work to do, but I am pleased Facebook has taken additional steps today.”
She and President Macron have been joined by leaders from Britain, Canada, Norway, Jordan, and Senegal, who were in Paris for the summit meeting. The European Commission’s President, Jean-Claude Juncker, joined them as well.
High profile tech companies such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, and Twitter sent representatives to the meeting as well. While the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, was not present at the summit, he sent his chief lobbyist Nick Clegg to represent him.
Mr Zuckerberg, however, privately met with Mr Macron last week.
All in all, 17 governments, the EU, and several tech companies have signed the voluntary, non-binding commitment to combat online extremism by working together for stricter penalties for live-streaming atrocities, more transparent community standards, and to study whether or not the algorithms that determine content on social media adds to radicalization.
Citing the need for freedom of speech, the United States said it was “not in a position to join” Christchurch Call, but that it supported its goals.
The statement from Christchurch Call included the following excerpts:
“We continue to be proactive in our efforts to counter terrorist content online while also continuing to respect freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
We encourage technology companies to enforce their terms of service and community standards that forbid the use of their platforms for terrorist purposes.
We maintain that the best tool to defeat terrorist speech is productive speech and thus we emphasise the importance of promoting credible, alternative narratives as the primary means by which we can defeat terrorist messaging.”
The tech companies said they would publish “transparency reports” concerning the detection and taking down of content deemed extremist content or violent.
In a joint statement, the tech companies said, “Terrorism and violent extremism are complex societal problems that require an all-of-society response. For our part, the commitments we are making today will further strengthen the partnership that governments, society and the technology industry must have to address this threat.”
Facebook made its announcement concerning limiting live streaming just before the summit in Paris started, and added that it was putting in place a “one-strike policy” that would ban individuals who violate the new Facebook Live rules.
People who share “violating content” such as statements from known terrorist groups would be prohibited from using the Facebook live feature for a certain time frame, such as 30 days./ TISG