PM: Facebook livestream crackdown 'good first step'

Flowers were placed in tribute to the victims on a wall outside the Al Noor mosque in...
Flowers were placed in tribute to the victims on a wall outside the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch after the attack in March. Photo: AP
Facebook says it is tightening rules around its livestreaming feature - a move New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says is a "good first step".

The social media giant made the announcement today ahead of a meeting of world leaders aimed at curbing online violence in the aftermath of the mosque killings in New Zealand.

A lone gunman killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch on March 15 while livestreaming the attacks on Facebook. It was New Zealand's worst peacetime shooting and spurred calls for tech companies to do more to combat extremism on their services.

Facebook said in a statement today it was introducing a "one-strike" policy for use of Facebook Live, temporarily restricting access for people who have faced disciplinary action for breaking the company's most serious rules anywhere on its site.

First-time offenders will be suspended from using Live for set periods of time, the company said. It is also broadening the range of offences that will qualify for one-strike suspensions.

Facebook did not specify which offences were eligible for the one-strike policy or how long suspensions would last, but a spokeswoman said it would not have been possible for the shooter to use Live on his account under the new rules.

Jacinda Ardern (right) said she looked forward to a long-term collaboration to make social media...
Jacinda Ardern (right) said she looked forward to a long-term collaboration to make social media safer by removing terrorist content from it. Photo: AP

GOOD FIRST STEP - ARDERN

The announcement comes as Jacinda Ardern co-chairs a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Wednesday seeking to have world leaders and chiefs of tech companies sign the "Christchurch Call," a pledge to eliminate violent extremist content online.

In an opinion piece in The New York Times on Saturday, Ardern said the "Christchurch Call" will be a voluntary framework that commits signatories to put in place specific measures to prevent the uploading of terrorist content.

Ardern has not made specific demands of social media companies in connection with the pledge, but has called for them "to prevent the use of livestreaming as a tool for broadcasting terrorist attacks."

Representatives from Facebook, Alphabet Inc's Google, Twitter Inc and other tech companies are expected to be part of the meeting, although Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg won't attend.

Ardern said today she was encouraged by Facebook's move.

"Facebook's decision to put limits on live streaming is a good first step to restrict the application being used as a tool for terrorists, and shows the Christchurch Call is being acted on.

"Today's announcement addresses a key component of the Christchurch Call, a shared commitment to making live streaming safer.

"The March 15 terrorist attack highlighted just how easily lives treaming can be misused for hate. Facebook has made a tangible first step to stop that act being repeated on their platform."

Ardern said multiple edited and versions of the March 15 massacre quickly spread online, and the take down was slow.

"New technology to prevent the easy spread of terrorist content will be a major contributor to making social media safer for users, and stopping the unintentional viewing of extremist content like so many people in New Zealand did after the attack, including myself, when it auto played in Facebook feeds."

Ardern said there was a lot more work to do, but looked forward to a long-term collaboration to make social media safer by removing terrorist content from it.

Facebook has said it removed 1.5 million videos globally that contained footage of the mosque...
Facebook has said it removed 1.5 million videos globally that contained footage of the mosque attack in the first 24 hours after it occurred. Photo: Reuters
Facebook said it planned  to extend the new restrictions to other areas over the coming weeks, beginning with preventing the same people from creating ads on Facebook.

It also said it would fund research at three universities on techniques to detect manipulated media, which Facebook's systems struggled to spot in the aftermath of the Christchurch attacks.

The company has said it removed 1.5 million videos globally that contained footage of the attack in the first 24 hours after it occurred. It said in a blog post in late March that it had identified more than 900 different versions of the video.

'PR EXERCISE ONLY'

New Zealand tech commentator Paul Breslin had described Facebook's move to tighten the rules around livestreaming  as a PR exercise.

Mr Breslin said it was a token measure and lacking in detail.

"There's no word on what the rules are, so that makes it very difficult to determine whether or not posts and video content are in breach of the rules.

"It doesn't say what's the minimum duration and again that wouldn't change the gunman's video on the day because even if they banned him for life it wouldn't make much difference to the people who had seen the video."

- Reuters and RNZ 

 

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