The Christchurch Call has been issued. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has led the initiative to crackdown on what big tech and global leaders deign as “violent extremist content” and “terrorist content”. The European Commission signed on, along with France, New Zealand, Canada, Indonesia, Ireland, Jordan, Norway, Senegal, the U.K., with others such as Australia, Germany, Japan, Italy, India, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden to sign, while tech companies Amazon, Facebook, Dailymotion, Google, Microsoft, Qwant, Twitter, and YouTube, have also signed, according to New Zealand outlet Stuff.
One major country didn’t sign-on, though. America.
President Donald Trump opted out of signing the Christchurch Call, which you can read in full over on Scribd.
The Christchurch Call isn’t enforced but it is encouraged.
According to the BBC the White House issued a statement explaining why they didn’t sign, which reads…
“We continue to be proactive in our efforts to counter terrorist content online while also continuing to respect freedom of expression and freedom of the press. We encourage technology companies to enforce their terms of service and community standards that forbid the use of their platforms for terrorist purposes. We maintain that the best tool to defeat terrorist speech is productive speech and thus we emphasise the importance of promoting credible, alternative narratives as the primary means by which we can defeat terrorist messaging.”
As noted in the BBC piece, all the tech giants pledged to update their terms of service to include the prohibition of distribution of “terrorist or violent extremist content”, as well as develop means to limit the spread or dissemination of such material. Given the broad angling of the wording, this could very well affect independent journalists like Nick Monroe, who examined and discussed the Christchurch shooter’s life and manifesto before Twitter forbade him from sharing certain details and information.
Certain content creators like Arch Warhammer actually spoke up about this issue, condemning the widespread censorship being enacted by big tech and government to silence discussion around the matter.
On May 14th, 2019 Facebook also issued a public statement noting that they would be instituting new restrictions for live feeds that violate their policies, with first offenses incurring 30 day restrictions, and repeat offenses incurring longer restrictions.
The media was happy about all of the censorship being passed down from big tech and the global leaders, but have been intent on smearing President Trump and the White House for not signing away the freedoms of Americans to join the Christchurch Call.
“That the U.S. is a no-show to such an important meeting indicates a shocking lack of concern about the tremendous harms perpetuated by the internet, including terrorism and killing. Further, our lack of participation will reinforce the intellectual divide between Americans and the rest of the world.
“If companies participate in the accord, they are necessarily representing to consumers that they will live up to its demands, and they will be compelled by governmental agencies to live up to those commitments.”
Newsweek pulled a similar stunt, avoiding criticizing Trump directly but instead selectively cited “critics” of Trump’s unwillingness to sign the unenforced accord. They pulled a quote from a professor at the University of Sydney’s Department of Media Communications, Fiona Martin, (yet another nobody) who stated…
“In saying it supports the agreement, but won’t sign it, it’s fence-sitting to please political extremists in its constituency. Trump’s government wants to reply on productive speech or counterspeech as the solution to terrorist speech. This approach doesn’t work, and wouldn’t have stopped the Christchurch attack livestream or its frightening aftermath. Only carefully developed constraints on who can access livestreaming will stop future incidents like this—and the US government’s failure to be at the table to discuss those policy approaches shows it doesn’t take the fight against violence and terror online seriously.”
Martin’s wording betrays her intent. She doesn’t use the word “censorship” but rather “carefully developed constraints”, which is just fancy phraseology for censorship.
Newsweek, however, did go the extra mile to claim that there is no censorship taking place against certain groups on social media, writing…
“Citing alleged suppression of conservatives last month, Texas Senator Ted Cruz threatened to wage antitrust action against the tech companies and charge them with fraud.
“Social media companies have denied the charges, and The Washington Post reported that there is no evidence proving the claims that social media sites exhibit ideological bias. Democrats have dismissed conservatives’ allegations. Instead, they have focused concerns about social media on radicalization. “
This is false.
Milo Yiannopoulos, Lara Loomer, Alex Jones, and Paul Joseph Watson were all recently banned from Facebook for sharing “dangerous” ideas.
Milo, Sargon of Akkad, The Proud Boys, Lara Loomer, and Alex Jones were also all banned from Twitter.
Heck, one Reddit user was banned from a sub-reddit for being white!
CNN at least had the balls to come out directly and challenge Trump… sort of.
They had Chris Cuomo to make a statement on the matter in a four minute segment on May 15th, 2019.
Unfortunately majority of the people in the comment section were more than willing to throw away their rights to free speech in order to curb the nebulous amalgamation of words and phrases that make up “hate speech”.
A few people did at least point out that the Christchurch Call is little more than a veiled endorsement to enforce and enact more censorship across the internet.
To their credit, at least Gizmodo was brazen enough to just come out and condemn the Trump administration for avoiding ceding the free speech of Americans over to totalitarians instead of hiding behind nobodies. They wrote…
“President Trump and the Republican Party more broadly have accused the Big Tech companies of bias against conservatives. Republican House Representative Devin Nunes even filed a lawsuit against Twitter and Twitter users back in March claiming that he’s being defamed on the platform. So it’s absurd to claim that you should fight bad speech with more speech in the environment of GOP martyrdom that has been invented by Trump and his allies.
“And is the White House really going to say that they’re fervent defenders of the First Amendment? President Trump has regularly called for news outlets that he doesn’t like to be investigated. He’s even done the same for comedy shows that make fun of him. In fact, he’s called for the FEC and FCC to investigate Saturday Night Live multiple times. But don’t worry, when it comes to the non-existent censorship of conservative speech on private platforms, Trump is always “monitoring and watching closely.”
Gizmodo may have been brazen but they were also disingenuous.
Devin Nunes, for instance, isn’t just suing Twitter for defamation but for election tampering. Of course, Gizmodo was duly against the idea of election tampering when the fake news story about the Russians hacking the 2016 elections was all the rage, since they reported on it with great ebullience; but they apparently support election tampering when it’s big tech potentially sabotaging a Conservative.
Also there’s a pretty big difference between asking for an investigation (which may render the defendant innocent) and outright censoring and banning speech (where there is no presumption of innocence).
Gizmodo attempts to conflate the act of challenging speech with censoring speech, both of which are two wholly different things (i.e., in one case you’re challenging the speech of someone/something and in the other case you’re suppressing the speech of someone/something).
The Christchurch Call is calling for government and tech to censor and remove “violent” and “extremist” content, which is not going to be arbitrated by the users but by the speech-stifling tech giants. Heck, we’ve already seen that the censorship doesn’t just include “violent” and “extremist” content, but also memes as well, considering that an 18-year-old was jailed for sharing a meme based on the Christchurch shooting in New Zealand.
Vox was a little less inane with their editorialized framing of the situation, but they basically copped to the bandwagon fallacy, writing…
“Facebook’s ‘first strike’ announcement is well-timed and likely, at least in part, an effort to earn some brownie points with the public. But it’s still positive step — and one the US government refuses to take.”
This is the message pushed by mainstream media ad infinitum.
The idea is to deluge readers with a constant barrage of editorials and news stories trying to convince gullible fools and malleable minds to hand over the keys to their free speech and encourage the White House to join in on the initiative to censor one of the last bastions of free speech.
The comment sections in a lot of those Left-wing outlets were pathetic, with plenty of people willing to give up freedom in exchange for nothing.
Thankfully, there were a few people in places like Gizmodo who did speak up and stand by the protection of free speech. Such is a small glimmer of hope during these dark times.
On the flip side, President Trump and the White House opened up a website and are currently taking feedback and gathering examples of social media censorship. So it looks like, for now, the White House is moving in the opposite direction of all the other countries who were pliable enough to sign the Christchurch Call.