WELLINGTON, New Zealand: Two years after a white supremacist in New Zealand livestreamed the slaughter of 51 Muslim worshippers on Facebook, French President Emmanuel Macron says the Internet continues to be be used by terrorists as a weapon to propagate hate.
Macron and other leaders from tech giants and governments around the world — including the US for the first time — gathered virtually on Saturday to find better ways to stop extremist violence from spreading online, while also respecting freedom of expression.
It was part of a global effort started by Macron and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after deadly attacks in their countries were streamed or shared on social networks.
The US government and four other countries joined the effort, known as the Christchurch Call, for the first time this year. It involves some 50 nations plus tech companies including Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon, and is named for the New Zealand city where the slaughter at the two mosques took place.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a prerecorded video that authorities in his country alone had taken down more than 300,000 pieces of terrorist material from the Internet over the past decade, which he described as a tsunami of hate.
“Terrorist content is like a metastasizing tumor within the Internet, or series of tumors,” Johnson said. “If we fail to excise it, it will inevitably spread into homes and high streets the world over.”
Since its launch, governments and tech companies have cooperated in some cases in identifying violent extremist content online. Ardern, however, said more tangible progress is needed to stop it from proliferating.
The meeting was aimed at revitalizing coordination efforts, notably since President Joe Biden entered office, and getting more tech companies involved. Macron and Ardern welcomed the US decision as a potential catalyst for stronger action.
Macron said the Internet had continued to be used as a tool in recent attacks in the US, Vienna, Germany and elsewhere. He said it cannot happen again, and that new European regulations against extremist content would help.
Ardern said that two years after the Christchurch Call was launched, momentum was strong. But she acknowledged the challenge in essentially playing whac-a-mole with different countries, Internet platforms and algorithms that can foster extremist content.
“The existence of algorithms themselves is not necessarily the problem, it’s whether or not they are being ethically used,” Ardern said. “And so that is probably the biggest focus for the Call community over the next year.”
She said part of the solution also came in better equipping a younger generation of Internet users to have the skills to deal with radical content or disinformation when they encounter it online.
Although the US only officially joined the Christchurch Call this year, it had been consistently contributing to the effort, Ardern said.
“Countering the use of the Internet by terrorists and violent extremists to radicalize and recruit is a significant priority for the United States,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement. She also stressed the importance of protecting freedom of expression and “reasonable expectations of privacy.”
In parallel developments socialite Paris Hilton has expressed support for Palestine and the Palestinian people as Israel continued its heavy bombardment of the occupied territories in an escalating conflict with Hamas militants.
The celebrity personality, who built her way from being a pampered hotel scion to a successful entrepreneur with a billion-dollar global brand, called for a halt in Israeli attacks against Gaza and a stop to the ‘genocide.’
““This is so heartbreaking. This needs to stop! #SavePalestine #GazaUnderAttack #stopthegenocide”,” Paris tweeted in an accompanying article from The Guardian where Israel claimed attacks in Gaza would continue until there is ‘complete quiet.’
Israeli air strikes killed 33 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst reported daily death toll yet in the almost week-long clashes.
— Paris Hilton (@ParisHilton) May 16, 2021
The heaviest fighting since 2014, sparked by unrest in Jerusalem, saw Hamas and Israel again trade heavy fire, with the death toll rising to 181 in the crowded coastal enclave of Gaza since Monday and at 10 in Israel, according to authorities on either side.
The 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation opened an emergency meeting Sunday over the heavy fighting, the first major move among Middle East nations still grappling with how to address the conflict.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki of the Palestinian Authority, which administers autonomous enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, decried what he called Israel’s “cowardly attacks” at the start of the meeting.
Israel said Sunday morning its “continuing wave of strikes” had in the past 24 hours struck over 90 targets across Gaza, where the destruction of a building housing news media organizations sparked an international outcry.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was “dismayed” by civilian casualties in Gaza and “deeply disturbed” by Israel’s strike on Saturday on the tower housing the Associated Press and Al Jazeera bureaus, a spokesperson said.
Israel’s army said Sunday that about 3,000 rockets had been fired from the coastal strip towards Israel, the highest rate ever recorded, of which about 450 failed launches fell in the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system had intercepted over a thousand rockets, the army said, in almost a week during which Israeli residential buildings have been hit, with over 500 people wounded.
Source: Arab News