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Christchurch Call: U.S. opts out of international effort to fight internet hate speech

The Trump administration is not endorsing the international movement prompted by the massacre of Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand to stem terrorism and extremism on the social media. The administration said although they supported the movement’s goals, they were concerned about preserving freedom of speech. (Variety, May 15, 2019, by Todd Spangler)

Internet free speech guardians were skeptical about the efficacy of the Christchurch Call, as the movement is called. Jillian C. York of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, May 16, 2019, cited the good, not-so-good and the ugly about the Call. She wrote that while the Call included the need for preserving “a free, open and secure internet,” industry standards and frameworks have caused “opaque measures the undermine freedom of expression.” She also found difficulty with the definition of key terms, specifically “terrorism” and “violent extremism.” Who and how would these terms be defined? “Companies regularly use blunt measures to determine what constitutes terrorism, ” she wrote, “while a variety of governments—including Call signatories Jordan and Spain—have used anti-terror measures to silence speech.”

Mike Masnick in techdirt, May 16, 2019 questioned whether the Call had achieved the right balance between protecting freedom and expression and fighting extremist online content. He was also critical of the Trump administration and its commitment to internet free speech citing their badgering social media about “nonexistent ‘conservative bias.'” “So, on the one hand,” wrote Masnick, “the White House says it believes in the First Amendment and doesn’t want governments to get involved, and at the very same time, it’s suggesting that it can pressure social media into acting in a way that it wants. And, of course, this is also the same White House, that has made other efforts to get social media companies to remove content from governments they dislike, such as Iran’s.”

For recent FAC coverage on the issue, click here, here and here.

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