Proliferation of harmful stuff must stop

Proliferation of harmful stuff must stop

Jacinda Ardern

Paris, France, May 17, 2019

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with French President Emmanuel Macron (Picture Courtesy: RNZ/AFP)

Essentially, our motivations have been to create change for the better.

In the wake of the terrorist attack in Christchurch New Zealand on the 15th of March, you may have seen many images or footage. 

Disturbingly, you may have also seen the attack itself. 

Not because social media was created to be a platform for violence – but because a man thousands of miles away from here used its openness and accessibility to spread hate. 

In doing, so he not only violated the standards set for those platforms, he violated our most basic sense of humanity.

Unseen images

But there were other images you may not have seen.

Like the one of a group of young people who answered the call from a local student leader that lost pupils in the attack to gather together in a show of solidarity and mourning with our Muslim community.

Or the ones of an anti-racism rallies, or those of memorials organised hastily and organically all around New Zealand in the days after the 15th of March.

All over New Zealand, groups came together because they were connected to one another by social media. Connected for good.

For every example of hate, there is an example of good. But we run the risk of diminishing the positive elements of technology if we simply accept that one will be a necessary part of the other. That an open and accessible internet simply means that extremism will coexist in the same space. 

I do not except that, and the participation of many of you in the Christchurch Call tells me that neither do you.

Power of technology

The Christchurch Call to action, which was agreed today, has a simple premise.

That tech companies have both enormous power, and enormous responsibility. And so do governments. We each have a role to play in protecting an open, free and secure internet, and in protecting the freedom of expression.

But this has never and should never be used as a justification for leaving extremism and terrorism unchecked.

No one after all has the right to broadcast murder. 

And so today we came together to make a start.

We pledged to each undertake a series of steps to prevent the proliferation of this kind of harmful content online.

We undertook to keep looking for the technological solutions that will make a difference, as well as the regulatory ones.

We acknowledged that we can do more by collaborating than we can alone, and that while there will be areas where we disagree and challenge each other, there will also be areas where we agree.

Global challenges

The same could be said for so many of the challenges we face as an international community.

Digital disruption, inequality, the future of work, right through to climate change – the biggest issue of mine and President Macron’s generation and the generation to come – technology has a significant and powerful role to play for each of these challenges.

For that to happen, we each have to play our part.

For our part as governments, we can be enablers and collaborators.

Provide an environment where technology can thrive and so too the creators and innovators. 

Create the space to ask questions and to debate solutions rather than shout each other down. 

 

At the same time, technology companies can continue to seek solutions to our most pressing challenges while civil society guides us in our duty of care to seek solutions that don’t undermine basic rights and freedoms.

like to think the Christchurch Call has tried to model this approach.

Other World Leaders

To those who came to join us for this express purpose from Senegal, Indonesia, Canada, Norway, Ireland, Jordan, the United Kingdom and European Union, I thank you for your leadership.

To President Macron, I called you some six weeks ago with a view on what we needed to do in the wake of the terrorist attack we experienced, and you have been a willing and open partner. My express gratitude to you for your leadership.

And to each of us. As humans, we are all here and motivated possibly by different things.

Whether it is your belief in the power of these new technologies to organise and unite, the ability to solve problems, the power of being able to freely express an idea that can be amplified beyond your own borders.

For me, well my motivation is simple.

To never ever again have to stand in front of a group of young people who were amongst the millions who saw the indiscriminate murder of 51 members of their communities, knowing that we could have done something to prevent that.

There are solutions, we just need to commit to finding them.

Thank you for being a part of that.

Jacinda Ardern is the Prime Minister of New Zealand. The above was her speech at the ‘Tech for Good Summit’ held in Paris on Wednesday, May 15, 2019.

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