Emmanuel Macron and Jacinda Ardern vow further action against online extremism

French and New Zealand leaders' Christchurch Call campaign boosted by US involvement

New Zealand leader Jacinda Ardern speaks at Christchurch Call. Getty Images
New Zealand leader Jacinda Ardern speaks at Christchurch Call. Getty Images

French President Emmanuel Macron and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sought on Friday to advance their campaign to curb online extremism, after it received a boost when the US joined the initiative.

Their talks marked two years since the leaders launched the Christchurch Call, an initiative named after the New Zealand city where a far-right gunman massacred 51 people at two mosques on March 15, 2019, while broadcasting his rampage live on Facebook.

The campaign, which aims to bring together governments and top tech platforms, has been boosted by US President Joe Biden's decision to join the initiative after his predecessor Donald Trump turned his back on the campaign.

"We all have a role to play in continuing to implement the engagements of the Christchurch Call. This evening we reaffirmed our willingness to continue down this road together," Mr Macron wrote on Twitter after the talks.

He said that 55 countries, including all EU member states, two international organisations and 10 companies are now part of the initiative.

Participants in the Christchurch Call are asked to pledge to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content on social media and other online platforms.

Mr Macron welcomed the move by the US to join the initiative. However some key nations, including China and Russia, have still not signed up.

"There is no place for terrorist and violent extremist content anywhere, whether it be online or offline," said Mr Macron.

The internet was abused by terrorists as a weapon to propagate hateful ideologies

Emmanuel Macron

He recalled attacks carried out by extremists that took place over the last year, notably the murder in France in October of teacher Samuel Paty who was beheaded after he showed pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

Paty had been subjected to an online campaign against him before his murder by a young Islamist radical from Chechnya.

"The internet was abused by terrorists as a weapon to propagate hateful ideologies," said Mr Macron in his opening remarks.

"I am thinking of the online calls to the violence that led to the killing of Samuel Paty ... This cannot be forgotten," said Mr Macron.

Ms Ardern earned international respect after the Christchurch attacks by reaching out to New Zealand's Muslim communities and vowing a wide-scale crackdown on online extremist content.

"Among the priorities I would like to see progressed is a strengthened collective ability to manage crises related to terrorist and violent extremist content online," Ms Ardern said in a statement released by the French presidency before the talks.

Updated: May 15, 2021 02:59 AM


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