Jacinda Ardern’s Christchurch Call opening statement

  • Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern
Prime Minister

Te whare e tū nei,

 te whenua e hora mai rā,

 te iwi o tēnei whenua, o Wīwī, karanga mai.

 Tēnei te kawe i ngā mate o Aotearoa, o Ōtautahi, kia mihia, kia tangihia, kia maharatai.

 Aue, te mamae I ahau e!

 Ngā mate o te wā,

 haere, haere, haere atu rā.

 Te hunga ora, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa! 

To us gathered here, to the people of this land, the nation of France, thank you for your welcome.

 I bring with me today the memory of those lost to us all on 15 March 2019 in Ōtautahi Christchurch, so that we can all acknowledge them, grieve their loss, and remember them.

 The hearts of Aotearoa still ache.

 So, to them, and those across the world who have been lost to the atrocities of terrorism, we mourn their passing, and farewell them.

 And to those of us here today, global leaders congregated here to action by the Christchurch Call, I greet you all.

 Let us all hear the call from Christchurch today.

 Good afternoon and welcome.

 Zia and Sheryl of Ngati Ranana began today with a welcome containing elements of our Maori culture from Aotearoa New Zealand.

The sound of the conch to call us to attention, a chant to greet you, and a call or karanga to acknowledge those who have passed, those of us who remain, and why we are here.

That reminder feels a fitting place to start.

On the 15th of March – exactly two months ago today – a terrorist entered mosques in the city of Christchurch and massacred 51 members of New Zealand’s Muslim community while they were peacefully at prayer.

 He livestreamed his acts, and they were disseminated countless times online.

 I stand before you with the 51 lives lost in New Zealand heavy on my mind.

 And I know that many of you – too many of you – will have your own domestic experience of terrorism on your minds.

 Terrorism and extremist violence affect us all – regardless of culture, country, religion, or race.

 They have been carried out on our streets, in our concert halls, in mosques, in churches, in synagogues.

 But this act was undeniably different.

 The terrorist attack on March 15 was specifically designed to be broadcast on the internet, and it was. The sheer scale of its reach was staggering.

 The original footage was viewed 4000 times before being removed by Facebook. But within the first 24 hours it spread and proliferated, 1.5million copies of the video were taken down from Facebook. There was one upload per second to YouTube in the first 24 hours alone.

 It’s hard to quantify the harm this caused. But the fact it caused harm is unquestionable. Thousands of New Zealanders called our nationwide mental health support line saying the video was causing them distress.

 The video persists, despite efforts taken to date to remove it. Those wanting to perpetuate grief or hate keep finding ways to cut and share the video and outwit the efforts of the companies in this room to stop its spread.

 The ongoing availability of the video continues to magnify the despicable terrorist act and the fear it causes.

 Two months have passed since the attack in New Zealand and I’m still told of women who are too frightened to leave their homes.  

 Despite previous global efforts, the attacks on March 15 show how the best intents of the internet can be perverted and used to devastating effect as a tool for terrorists. Our task here is to find ways to protect the freedom of the internet and its power to do good, while working together to find ways to end its use for terrorism.

 We know we can’t change the world on our own. But we know we can – and must – make a difference on this issue.

 Our ambition is high, but our approach is pragmatic.


 To the country leaders present, we must think beyond our national borders and work globally and collectively.

 What we commit to do today is as important as what the internet companies commit to do today.

 We are building on foundational work that has already been done in a number of different fora, but we need to go further.

 We must build resilient societies that reject and resist acts of terrorism and violent extremism.

 Our societies must be compassionate and inclusive no matter what religion, race or gender, and we cannot call for others to model this behaviour unless we model it ourselves, in our actions and in our language.

 Online, we as governments may choose regulation as a tool to address this issue. But we need to recognise that regulation alone will not solve the problem. We need to work collectively – with tech companies, with civil society – to make meaningful change.

 And where we regulate, these regulations must not become a barrier to a free, open and interoperable internet. We must maintain and support an internet that acts for good. 

 We must also acknowledge that the traditional media have responsibilities with regard to this content, and governments must encourage them to act appropriately. I was proud of our New Zealand media when they took the unprecedented step of agreeing to limit their reporting of the trial of the man accused of the 15 March attacks.

 I’m asking you to become part of a future in which our citizens can access the benefits of the internet without experiencing the serious harms brought about by terrorist and violent extremist content online. Finding this balance is surely a goal we can rally around.

 Tech companies

 To the internet companies present, you work in an industry renowned for its innovation and fast pace of change.

 You make the seemingly impossible, possible.

 We want you to apply this approach to this issue.

 I know that none of you want your platforms to perpetuate and amplify terrorism and extremist violence.

 But these platforms have grown at such pace, with such popularity, that we are all now dealing with consequences you may not have imagined when your company was just a start-up. Your scale and influence brings a burden of responsibility.

 I know what we are doing isn’t simple, and that our goal – of eliminating the upload of this kind of content is ambitious - but it is also necessary.

 The Call outlines some practical things that we can commit to now, that will deliver on our ambitious goals in the future. But that cannot be the conclusion. After all, this Call is essentially an action plan.

 We must continue to work together on technical solutions to the sorts of challenges we saw arise from Christchurch.

 We ask that you lead the way for your industry, and consider how you might support smaller platforms in addressing this content, including through sharing tools and expertise. 

 But we also make a very simple request, but perhaps the most important of all.

 We ask that you enforce the standards and policies you already have against this kind of content.

 Your customers must clearly understand the consequences of their sharing terrorist and violent extremist content.

 We must be assured that terrorist and violent extremist content will be given priority when flagged, and that action will be taken immediately.

 We ask that you assess how your algorithms funnel people to extremist content and make transparent that work.

 Some of this is already under way. But we need to see the progress you are making. We are asking you to report regularly in a verifiable and measurable way.

 Civil society

 For anyone, but especially those concerned that this action plan we are endorsing today is about curbing freedom of expression, let us be clear; an open, free and secure internet delivers extraordinary benefits to the world.

 Ensuring that fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, are not compromised underpins the Christchurch Call.


 And finally - In my country we have a saying:

 He aha te mea nui o te ao?

 What is the most important thing in the world?

 He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata.

 It is the people, the people, the people.

 The internet is made up of vast, complex technological platforms. But they were created by people. They are managed by people. When they harm, they harm people.

 And it is people who have the power to determine how they evolve. Let us determine that together.

 No reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tatou katoa.