Realising the potential of the Christchurch Call
“The Christchurch Call has been important in highlighting the urgency of tackling terrorist and violent extremist content online. However, governments and tech companies have a lot more to do to implement the Calls commitments and to help communities have a stronger voice in how that happens,” says InternetNZ’s Interim Chief Executive, Andrew Cushen.
Today, the Christchurch Call held its Leaders' Summit in New York. It was a space for the Call Community to have frank and open dialogue on the Call’s future direction.
“With more than 120 countries, tech companies, and civil society organisations involved in the Christchurch Call Community, there is great potential for real change,” says Cushen.
Since it was set up, the Call has helped enable rapid and coordinated response by governments and online services to limit the dissemination of terrorist and violent extremist content online following a real-world attack.
At today’s Summit, the Call Community discussed how it can continue to sharpen its incident response capabilities while grappling with issues of privacy, transparency and accountability.
Civil Society representatives asked governments and companies to involve them more in crisis response because looping in affected communities and people with local expertise will help to identify appropriate responses.
The Call Community discussed algorithmic issues and the potential role algorithms play in radicalisation. A number of speakers identified the lack of traction on Call commitments relating to algorithms and the inability of third parties to audit algorithmic processes because there is a lack of data and transparency around how they work.
“We need tech companies to provide access to meaningful data to help researchers and others understand how algorithms work, and what role they play in driving Internet users towards extremist content and radicalisation.
During the summit, New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, announced a new research initiative to understand the impact of algorithms on users' online experiences while protecting people’s privacy online. We look forward to understanding more about this initiative and how it will help people working on these issues understand the impact of algorithms on online extremism.
There was also recognition that a focus on algorithms alone is not enough to combat the spread of harmful and extremist content online.
“If we can see true collaboration between tech companies, governments, civil society, academia and most importantly affected communities of online harm, we could get closer to eliminating the spread of terrorist and violent extremist content online,” says Cushen.
New Zealand has played a major role in establishing the Christchurch Call and this is something we should be very proud of.
“While we are taking a leading role in this global effort, we also have an opportunity to improve our own laws and processes here in Aotearoa.
“The Internet should be a safe space for everyone in Aotearoa. Right now, our laws and processes are not adequate for the online world that we live in, and some communities are experiencing hate, hurt and threats of violence.
“There is a significant problem with the way the Internet interacts with broader social problems.
“We hope that the government’s review of the content regulatory system will help to find a new approach to content regulation that minimises the risk of harms caused by online content including online abuse and misinformation.
“We desperately need better systems to address these important issues,” says Cushen.
InternetNZ is proud to be a member of the Christchurch Call Advisory Network (CCAN) which includes civil society groups that represent a range of perspectives including human rights, freedom of expression, digital rights, counter-radicalization, victim support, and public policy.
“CCAN is a diverse group and is looking to become more diverse going forward. Its membership holds a huge amount of information and expertise, and we encourage governments and companies to take advantage of this resource,” says Cushen.
Among other things, CCAN continues to urge the governments and tech companies that have signed up to the Call to centre the voices of affected communities in all Christchurch Call work through meaningful engagement and consultation.
InternetNZ will continue to be part of the Christchurch Call Community to tackle the rise of terrorism and violent extremism online while balancing the need for a free and open Internet and respect for human rights.
The Christchurch Call was launched three years ago as a response to the live streaming of the horrific terrorist attack on two mosques in Christchurch in March 2019. The Call brings together governments, tech companies, partners and civil society organisations who share the common goal of eliminating terrorist and violent extremist content online.