“The Prime Minister’s vague demand that social media companies remove content from their platforms is concerning”, according to ACT Leader David Seymour.
“Jacinda Ardern will fly off to a global meeting without consulting New Zealanders or appearing to know what her Government’s position is. What will she propose on our behalf?
“As with oil and gas and gun reform, the PM is more worried about a global audience than making good policy. She will make a grand gesture on the global stage without understanding any of the detailed implications of her public statements.
“Will every video that is uploaded to social media need to be vetted? Or will platforms need to change their algorithms and, in the process, remove legal content? The PM doesn’t appear to know and isn’t concerned if her demands are impractical.
“In any case, social media companies are already self-regulating. For example, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are now removing 75 per cent of ‘hate speech’ within 24 hours.
“We can either allow companies to develop sophisticated AI tools to remove specific content, or governments can intervene, creating overzealous social media platforms that push illegal content into the dark corners of the web.
“Nevertheless, the Prime Minister’s call will be well-received at the G7, where member countries have already begun forcing social media companies to act as their censors.
German law requires social media companies to promptly remove illegal content or face massive fines of more than $80 million. UK lawmakers want to follow suit. Human Rights Watch has said German the law is “vague, overbroad, and turns private companies into overzealous censors to avoid steep fines.” The UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression said the law was at odds with international human rights standards.
“Of course, there is no excuse for Facebook to continue to host footage of the Christchurch terrorist attacks. But even if this is a genuine attempt to fight terrorism, a global push to restrict online activity could set a dangerous precedent and be abused by governments seeking to censor other content.
“Indeed, this is already happening. We are starting to see a domino effect, with Singapore, the Philippines, Russia, Venezuela, Kenya, and the EU all demanding that social media companies remove content.
“We need to remain particularly vigilant when it comes to restrictions on freedom of expression. It is vitally important that we retain an open society in which free thought and open enquiry are encouraged. We cannot solve our most pressing problems if we are not able to try new ideas, discard those that don’t work, and look for better ones.
“That’s why the PM’s vague call for new restrictions on social media activity is so concerning.”