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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, May 16, 2019 1:00 am

US declines to join anti-extremism call

Washington Post

WASHINGTON – The United States on Wednesday broke with 18 governments and top American tech firms by declining to endorse a New Zealand-led response to the live-streamed shootings at two Christchurch mosques, saying free-speech concerns prevented the White House from formally joining the largest campaign to date targeting extremism online.

The “Christchurch Call,” unveiled at an international gathering in Paris, commits foreign countries and tech giants to be more vigilant about the spread of hate on Facebook and posted afterward on other social media. It reflects heightened frustrations with the inability of Facebook, Google and Twitter to restrain hateful posts, photos and videos that have spawned real-world violence.

The call is named after the New Zealand city where a shooter killed 51 people in a March attack broadcast on social media sites.

Leaders from across the globe pledged to counter online extremism, including through new regulation, and to “encourage media outlets to apply ethical standards when depicting terrorist events online.” Companies including Facebook, Google and Twitter, meanwhile, said they'd work more closely to ensure their sites don't become conduits for terrorism. They also committed to accelerated research and information sharing with governments in the wake of recent terrorist attacks.

But the White House opted against endorsing the call to action. In a statement, the White House said it stands “with the international community in condemning terrorist and violent extremist content online” and supports the goals of the Christchurch call to action but is “not currently in a position to join the endorsement.”