Significant progress made on eliminating terrorist content online

Joint Press Release: the Right Honourable Jacinda Ardern Prime Minister of New Zealand and His Excellency Emmanuel Macron President of the French Republic.

World leaders and tech companies have announced significant progress on the implementation of the Christchurch Call to Action to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online at a meeting held at the United Nations in New York today.

The Call was launched in response to the March 15 terrorist attack in Christchurch where the murder of 51 people was broadcast live on the internet, and copied and reposted millions of times at an unprecedented scale, in a deliberate effort to spread fear and compound the suffering of the victims. 

Key outcomes announced at today’s meeting include:

  • An overhaul of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) to make it an independent body that will drive much of the tech sector’s work on implementing the Call
  • The launch of a new crisis response protocol, to be used by governments and tech companies in the wake of terrorist and violent extremist attacks to coordinate and to manage the online impacts of the attack. 
  • The establishment of a Christchurch Call Advisory Network to advise on the implementation of the Call.
  • 31 new countries and 2 organisations joining the Call bringing the total to 48 countries and 3 international organisations. 

“The global community has responded to the March 15 terrorist act that attempted to divide us with an unprecedented and powerful act of unity,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

“Today’s comprehensive set of actions are designed to ensure we have the organisation in place to stop the internet being used as a tool for terror.

“The new standalone Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism will have a dedicated structure and staff to more capably carry out the business of disrupting terrorist and violent extremist use of member platforms and to engage with smaller platforms to assist them do the same..

“Its mission now encompasses violent extremist content online – not just terrorist content. And it will have working groups focussed on research, on algorithms, and on data privacy and information sharing.

“I’m confident the reformed GIFCT will have greater capacity to tackle the challenge of terrorist and violent extremist content online and provide a space for collaboration to implement the Call and stop terrorist content online.

“New Zealand and France, as co-founders of the Christchurch Call, will also help guide the work of the GIFCT as members of its new Independent Advisory Committee.

“We have also established a new shared crisis response protocol to respond quickly and effectively to prevent abhorrent content from spreading in the wake of a terrorist attack.

“The shared protocol is operationally ready and could be used immediately in the event of a terrorist attack like Christchurch, where an online response is required.      

“Google will host a testing exercise in New Zealand in December to help bring all stakeholders to a better state of readiness in the event of a future attack

President Macron said: “The new crisis response protocol, aligns with the work of the EU internet forum, and will allow for a more efficient exchange of information between States and companies, and will help everyone respond more effectively.”

“The Internet was established to enable its users to create, to communicate, and to create value. It should remain as a domain that is open, free and secure.  States and companies must act together, with a shared sense of responsibility and respect for rights and freedoms, to combat the use of the internet for terrorist and violent extremist ends.”

“The dialogue we led with tech companies and civil society was successful thanks to the efforts of everyone involved.  I am convinced that the reshaped GIFCT will allow us to more effectively counter in a transparent way, the propagation of terrorist and violent extremist content online.” 

PM Ardern said: “There is recognition that this is a global challenge - and one requiring a strong, collaborative response. It is pleasing to see such a large number of new countries and organisations signing on to progress this work.

“The Christchurch Call is not a traditional diplomatic initiative, instead we have created an innovative, flexible coalition, dedicated to solving shared problems, that unites countries and tech companies. 

“And I’d like to acknowledge the work and leadership of the tech companies in getting us to this point”.

“We acknowledge the wide range of work that has been place across multiple fora to tackle online harms and terrorist use of the internet, including the Aqaba Process established by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and the EU Internet Forum, both of which have contributed significantly to today’s outcomes. 

“There is still more to be done, but today’s announcements underline what can be achieved with collaboration and a shared sense of ownership.”  

Background information

The Christchurch Call

  • Two months to the day after the Christchurch Terror Attack, on 15 May 2019, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron brought together Heads of State and Government and leaders from the tech sector to adopt the Christchurch Call to Action.
  • All told, seventeen countries, eight companies and the European Commission came together in a powerful demonstration of solidarity and a global commitment to prevent the exploitation of social media as a tool of terror. 
  • Now, over six months on from the Christchurch attacks, support for the Call has grown by 31 more countries and two more international organisations. 
  • The Christchurch Call emphasizes the importance of fighting against terrorist and violent extremist content online in a way consistent with principles of a free, open and secure internet, without compromising human rights.

The GIFCT

  • In 2017 the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) was set up by Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube as an industry-led initiative to apply technology, share knowledge and support research on terrorists’ use of platforms. In the Call, the GIFCT companies agreed to work together to ensure cross-industry efforts are coordinated and robust, including by investing in and expanding the GIFCT.   
  • Today it has been announced that GIFCT will become an independent entity, with dedicated resources and staff, and a new broader vision to prevent terrorists and violent extremists from exploiting members’ platforms.

This relaunched GIFCT will:

  • Go beyond its current mission and address both terrorist and violent extremist content on-line;
    • Invest in new technology to counter this evolving problem;
    • Promote alternative narratives and positive interventions;
    • Perform a new crisis management function;
    • Help increase understanding of how algorithms and other processes drive radicalisation;
    • Invest in better understanding terrorist and violent extremist networks and modes of operation online; and
    • Assist smaller online platforms.
  • The GIFCT proposal demonstrates the level of commitment Amazon, Facebook, Google/YouTube, Microsoft and Twitter have to taking this problem seriously.  This represents a significant step in helping prevent events like the Christchurch attack. 
  • The relaunched GIFCT will also be more inclusive and transparent, with multi-stakeholder engagement across its activities, bringing civil society to the heart of this work.  We have worked closely with the GIFCT founding companies to achieve this result and we applaud this important step in helping to fulfil the ambitions of the Christchurch Call, and in creating a culture of trust and transparency.
  • The Call also includes a commitment by supporter companies on reviewing the operation of algorithms and other processes that might drive users to more extreme content so as to better understand possible intervention points. This important work will be picked up by the reshaped GIFCT, which will establish working group to focus on this issue.
  • A working group will set up within the reshaped GIFCT to better understand how countries and companies may share relevant datasets and information while respecting the fundamental rights of privacy of the users of these platforms.
  • Research is an important element of the Christchurch Call: Supporters have committed to supporting research and academic efforts to better understand, prevent and counter terrorist and violent extremist content online, including its impacts offline.  We have also committed to accelerating research into and development of technical solutions.  Since May, we’ve been reviewing the current research, and where the gaps lie, so that the Call community might better respond to the commitments they made.

Crisis Response

  • Working with the companies, civil society and law enforcement, we have developed a new shared crisis response protocol, which will be used by governments and tech companies in the wake of terrorist and violent extremist attacks to coordinate and to manage the online impacts of the attack.  GIFCT companies will do so in a joined up way via their ‘content incident framework within the shared protocol.
  • The shared protocol is operationally ready and could be used immediately in the event of a terrorist attack like Christchurch, where an online response is required.
  • It is complementary with the work undertaken by Europol and DG Home to develop an EU crisis response framework and with domestic work undertaken by other call supporters.
  • It establishes common thresholds for action, principles and standards for transparency and actions to be taken when thresholds are reached. The shared protocol ensures coordinated and rapid action by online platforms to counteract the viral spread of terrorist content. 
  • It is a living framework that will be regularly tested, assessed and updated. 
  • We welcome Google hosting the first such testing exercise in New Zealand in December this year.  This will help bring all stakeholders to a better state of readiness.

Advisory Network to the Christchurch Call

  • Terrorist use of the Internet is a complex challenge. We can’t navigate this shifting landscape as governments and companies alone. We need to seek insights and guidance from the expertise and goodwill residing in the wide array of civil society organisations focused on these issues, For this reason, we welcome the civil society organisations which have joined the Christchurch Call Advisory Network and are now listed on the Christchurch Call website  Their work will help us to ensure we integrate a broad range of perspectives and live up to the commitments in the Call around supporting human rights and online freedoms, as well as the rights of victims of terror.

Individual efforts and other fora

  • In the OECD, we are pleased to be working closely with Australia and other Member countries in a process that will involve online service providers, experts and civil representatives in developing a voluntary transparency reporting protocol. This work helps take forward a specific commitment in the Christchurch Call: to implement regular and transparent public reporting.
  • We also acknowledge discussions that have taken place at the G20 in Osaka, G7 meeting in Biarritz, and elsewhere.

New supporters

  • In Paris 17 countries and the European Commission declared their support for the Christchurch Call to Action. That has significantly expanded to 48 countries and 3 international organisations. 
  • Details can be found on the Call website: www.christchurchcall.com
  • We welcome this increase in support and look forward to working with all supporters to ensure that the Christchurch Call is put into action.