APC statement to the Christchurch Call Leaders’ Dialogue at the UN General Assembly in New York, 23 September 2019
For too long, efforts to address violent extremist and terrorist content have focused almost exclusively on Islamic terrorism, overlooking violent misogyny, white supremacy, far-right and anti-LGBTIQ extremism. The Christchurch Call provides an opportunity to shift course and address these gaps. We offer some suggestions to that end.
First, engage those affected and embrace holistic solutions. Violent extremism can be hyper local, using language, phrases and images that are not picked up by content moderators or algorithms, but that can spark violence in a particular context. There is no silver bullet technical “fix” to this problem. Ad-based business models fuelled by algorithms that favour extremism are a big part of the problem.
Second, reign in outsourcing of speech regulation to private actors. Reinforce the rule of law, due process and judicial oversight. More transparency and accountability are needed. Companies should make databases of affected content available for independent review and audit, and provide remedy mechanisms to people using their services – in all countries and languages.
Third, states must refrain from enabling and perpetuating violent extremism either by their own actions or inaction. States have the primary responsibility to nurture an environment where diversity, peace and democracy thrive.
Fourth, efforts to curb the spread of violent extremist content online must consider the different technical layers of the internet. Regulatory interventions should be proportional, narrowly tailored to where they can be most effective, and mitigate unintended consequences for people's freedom of expression and ability to share information safely and securely.
Finally, power matters. It is important to be clear eyed that the same powerful technology companies that are central to this discussion have business models that profit from extremist content. Affected groups, civil society, human rights defenders and the technical community must be at the table. We bring technical expertise, research, and lived experiences. We are eager to work together towards solutions, but need resources and assurance that our voices will be heard. We thank the Prime Minister of New Zealand for her leadership in this regard.