Facebook, Google, Twitter sign ‘Christchurch Call’ to cull terrorist content

Google, Twitter and Facebook all signed the Christchurch Call.


Tech giants and political leaders from around the globe came together in Paris on Wednesday to pledge their commitment to tackling the spread of terrorist content online, following the attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March.

In a summit hosted jointly by French President Emmanuel Macron and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, the companies agreed to sign the document, and also to commit to a nine-point plan that will see them work together more collaboratively than they have in the past to ensure the spread of terrorist content is halted more effectively in future. 

It comes in the wake of the New Zealand attacker livestreaming the murder of 51 people at two mosques on Facebook, resulting in the video being viewed many times around the world before it was removed. More than a month after the attack, videos of the attack were still found to be circulating online, proving just how hard it is for tech companies to control the spread of viral tragedies.

Among the signatories of the “Christchurch Call” are Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube and Microsoft, along with 17 national governments and the EU. But one significant name is missing from the list of supporters — the White House announced it would not be signing the commitment due to free speech concerns.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy issued a statement that said while the US supports the goals of the Christchurch Call, it’s “not currently in a position to join the endorsement.”

“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,” the statement reads.

In a joint statement, the supporters of the call said:

The terrorist attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March were a horrifying tragedy. And so it is right that we come together, resolute in our commitment to ensure we are doing all we can to fight the hatred and extremism that lead to terrorist violence.

The Christchurch Call announced today expands on the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT), and builds on our other initiatives with government and civil society to prevent the dissemination of terrorist and violent extremist content. Additionally, we are sharing concrete steps we will take that address the abuse of technology to spread terrorist content, including continued investment in technology that improves our capability to detect and remove this content from our services, updates to our individual terms of use, and more transparency for content policies and removals.

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.

The five actions the companies have committed to taking individually are:

  • Updating their terms of use to expressly prohibit the distribution of terrorist content
  • Establishing methods for users to report terrorist and violent extremist content
  • Enhancing the underlying technology that detects and removes terrorist content automatically
  • Committing to better checks for livestreaming
  • Publishing transparency reports

There are also four actions that the companies have agreed to work on together. These are:

  • Sharing technology development, including open-source, shared tools that other companies can use
  • Creating joint crisis protocols
  • Education
  • Combatting hate and bigotry

Originally published May 15, 9:40 a.m. PT.
Update, 10:39 a.m. PT: Adds White House statement.

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