PM arrives at Christchurch Call but Trump and Zuckerberg absent

5:13 am on 13 May 2019

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will land in Paris tonight New Zealand time where she is set to host the Christchurch Call summit alongside the French President Emmanuel Macron.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addressing the media after announcing that NZ and France will lead global efforts to try to end the use of social media to organise and promote terrorism.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addressing the media after announcing that NZ and France will lead global efforts to try to end the use of social media to organise and promote terrorism. Photo: RNZ/Dan Cook

The meeting - the first of its kind - will be held on Wednesday with world leaders and technology companies, in an attempt to eliminate social media being used to promote and organise terrorism.

The global call for action comes after 51 people died in Christchurch as the result of a terrorist attack that was livestreamed on Facebook.

A call for change

Ms Ardern watched the video of the accused gunman killing people in two mosques almost two months ago.

She said 8000 people who saw the video in the aftermath contacted mental health support lines in New Zealand after seeing it.

Ms Ardern wrote in the New York Times yesterday that what she was trying to achieve with the Christchurch Call was a voluntary framework that commits those who sign up to prevent the upload of terrorist content.

She said what happened on 15 March was globally unprecedented and intended to go viral and it did as we saw the number of times social media companies had to pull the video.

While the government was making sure our legislation was fit for purpose, getting tech companies to change their ways was a different challenge.

Ms Ardern said being at the table and chairing the discussion in Paris was not somewhere New Zealand would have been if the events in Christchurch in March had not happened.

"But I don't think New Zealand shies away from challenges when they confront us so directly."

In order to change things, Ms Ardern said work needed to be done both domestically and internationally.

In New Zealand regulations and legislation were being checked to protect people in the future.

"[But] if it was just a regulatory response, I don't think I can put my hand on my heart and say we could have prevented that''.

As for why the countries taking part did not include Asia, in particular China, Ms Ardern said she expected that to change over time.

"This is not an exclusive call and my expectation isn't that it begins and ends with those who sign up over the coming days.

"We will continue to seek others to join and be a part of creating that change we need,'' she said.

Christchurch Call was about meeting with countries who shared a view around "open, free and accessible internet'' and those where Facebook was present.

"I do think we'll see change because we have to and because, you know, companies will over time lose their social license because people who use these platforms, do they want to stumble across on something as hideous and graphic and horrific as what happened on the 15th of March?"

Who is answering the call?

Notably absent are US President Donald Trump and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, who has sent Britain's former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg in his absence.

Ms Ardern said her conversations with Mr Zuckerberg had been "really consistent and high level'' but she would have preferred for him to have attended the summit.

"But what is much more important to me is Facebook's ultimate commitment to this call to action,'' she said.

"It's not about who is physically there on the day. It's what we actually generate as a result.''

Ms Ardern has not spoken directly to Mr Trump about the Christchurch Call but will hold one-on-ones with Canada's Justin Trudeau and British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Heads of state from Ireland, Norway, Jordan, Senegal, Indonesia and the European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker will also be there.

Twitter's chief executive Jack Dorsey and Microsoft president Brad Smith will attend. Google, Amazon and Wikimedia will also be there.

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