15 Mar 2023

Hipkins hints Ardern could continue Christchurch Call work

9:53 am on 15 March 2023
(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 30, 2020, New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arrives for a press conference to speak about the charges laid over the 2019 White Island volcanic eruption, in Wellington. - New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on January 19, 2023 she will resign next month.

Former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Photo: AFP / Marty Melville

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has hinted his predecessor, Jacinda Ardern, could continue her work on the Christchurch Call when she leaves politics next month.

Today marks four years since a terrorist walked into the Al Noor and Linwood mosques, murdering 51 worshippers and injuring dozens more.

In the aftermath of the attack, former prime minister Jacinda Ardern teamed up with French President Emmanuel Macron to set up the Christchurch Call.

More than 100 governments and tech companies have signed up to the initiative, pledging to adopt protocols that slow or stop the spread of terrorist content.

A meeting of the Christchurch Call begins in New York.

A meeting of the Christchurch Call in New York last year, attended by Ardern, Macron and other Photo: Pool

Hipkins said Ardern may be stepping down from politics but this did not necessarily mean her work on the Christchurch Call was over.

"There's potential for Jacinda Ardern to continue to be involved in that work and in due course we'll explore what that might look like," he said.

Ardern, who was due to deliver her final speech to Parliament next month, declined RNZ's request for an interview.

Hipkins said the Christchurch Call remained a priority for the government.

"We've made some commitments around that; we definitely want to see those through. New Zealand is seen as having taken a really positive global leadership role here and I want to make sure that we're seeing that through."

The head of the Christchurch Call Paul Ash has previously said the work had made a "significant difference" but opposition parties are now questioning its value.

National's deputy leader Nicola Willis said she was not "aware of any big success with it" while ACT's leader David Seymour said tech companies were already doing their best to rid the internet of extremist content.

"What was a couple of politicians going to do to make them more effective or make the task easier?" Seymour said. "That question's never been answered. It seems it was more about publicity for the politicians rather than an actual, practical solution to solving what it a challenging problem."

He said tech companies were likely involved with the Christchurch Call because it was "good PR".

"They get their photo taken with Jacinda Ardern and Emmanuel Macron - I mean, it's probably worth sending someone off to get their picture taken. Why wouldn't they, rather than the alternative being seen to ignore it and not care about the Christchurch terror attack?

"Of course they're gonna do it. Does it actually help them do their job better? Probably not."

In a statement, Ash said after four years the Christchurch Call now included 25 commitments from governments and online service providers, had 120 member groups from every continent including major online services and "has made a tangible difference to the online environment".

"People are now less likely to encounter terrorist and extremist content online," he said.

"We are continuing to test and refine crisis response protocols to better prevent the spread of terrorist and violent extremist content in real time.

"We are working with online service providers to improve understanding of the role of algorithms in online radicalisation, and to develop positive interventions to protect people both online and offline.

"We are ensuring that we include diverse perspectives in our work, including youth and communities impacted by terrorism and violent extremism online, as key to understanding online radicalisation."

Ash said the group's deepest sympathies were with all those who lost loved ones and were affected on 15 March.

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