Big Internet Companies Agree to Code of Conduct Against Violent Extremism

    Big internet firms agreed on Monday to limit harmful online material in New Zealand, making a step that critics said evaded the option of government control.

    According to Netsafe, a government-funded internet-safety organisation, Meta Platforms, Alphabet-owned Google, TikTok, Amazon, and Twitter have signed a code of conduct.

    The firms will obey the code as self-regulation, Netsafe executive Brent Carey said in a statement.

    New Zealand to Counter Violent Extremism Online

    The New Zealand government is focused on reducing the threat of terrorism and violent extremism. Countering violent extremism is a complex, long-term challenge. Multiple government organisations, law enforcement agencies, civil society, academia and communities all have a role to play.

    Violent extremism refers to a person or organisation who justifies the use of violence, or pushes for others to use violence in order to dramatically alter the character of government, religion or society.

    This form of violence is typically focused at groups that violent extremists consider as threatening or weakening their world view.

    “There are too many Kiwis being bullied, harassed, and mistreated online, which is why the industry has pulled together to safeguard users,” Carey said in a statement.

    Industry lobby group NZTech will be accountable for the firms satisfying duties, which include decreasing harmful information online, reporting how they achieve that and supporting independent review of outcomes

    “We expect the governance structure will allow it to adapt alongside local realities, while at the same time maintaining the basic rights of freedom of speech,” said NZTech chief executive Graeme Muller.

    Meta and TikTok stated in comments they were thrilled about the code making internet platforms safer and more open.

    Interest groups demand additional specificity, though – for example, regarding fines for any failure by the firms to comply and about a system for public complaints.

    They also point to the accord being overseen by an industry entity, not the government.

    “This is a poor effort to anticipate regulation – in New Zealand and internationally – by supporting an industry-led approach,” Mandy Henk, chief executive of Tohatoha NZ, a non-profit group that lobbies on the social effect of technology, said in a statement.

    The framework that the corporations agreed to is called the Aotearoa New Zealand Code of Practice for Online Safety and Harms.

    New Zealand has been a trailblazer in attempting to wipe out violent extremism online. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron in 2019 started a worldwide movement to eradicate online hatred.

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