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Macron, Ardern hold talks in new push against online extremism

French President and New Zealand PM were to hold virtual talks to advance campaign to curb online extremism.

Anything connected to the internet — from smartphones to power plant controllers — can be manipulated. — Photo: © Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images
Anything connected to the internet — from smartphones to power plant controllers — can be manipulated. — Photo: © Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images

French President Emmanuel Macron and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern were to hold talks Friday by video conference to advance their two-year-old campaign to curb online extremism.

The talks will mark two years since the leaders launched the Christchurch Call, an initiative named after the New Zealand city where a far-right gunman massacred 51 people at two mosques on March 15, 2019 while broadcasting his rampage live on Facebook.

The campaign, which aims to bring together governments and top tech platforms, has been boosted by the decision of the administration of new US President Joe Biden to join the initiative after Donald Trump turned his back on the drive.

The aim of the talks, due to get underway at 1830 GMT, will be to “reaffirm strong, high-level political support, determine new goals for Christchurch Call signatories and maintain an open but demanding dialogue with digital platforms,” the French presidency said.

Participants in the Christchurch Call are asked to commit to pledges to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content on social media and other online platforms.

It was not immediately clear which tech chiefs and other leaders would be dialling into the virtual talks.

According to Macron’s office, this initiative now involves 52 states, the European Commission, 10 large companies and global internet platforms and as well as dozen civil society associations.

The drive was launched to counter a growing use of social media by extremists, after the Christchurch attacker broadcast live footage on Facebook from a head-mounted camera.

The New Zealand leader earned huge international prominence and respect after the attacks by reaching out to Muslim communities at home and vowing a widescale crackdown on extremist content.

“Among the priorities I would like to see progressed is a strengthened collective ability to manage crises related to terrorist and violent extremist content online,” Ardern said in a statement released by the French presidency ahead of the talks.

Macron added: “The work of the Call is ongoing and it remains as important as when it was launched two years ago.”/ach

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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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