Washington DC: The United States has declined to join a New-Zealand-led initiative aimed at encouraging tech companies and countries to curb extremism online.
Named after the New Zealand city where a deadly terrorist attack took place on May 15, the non-binding agreement 'Christchurch Call' has been signed by 18 leaders from around the globe, including British PM Theresa May and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, reported The Washington Post.
"While the United States is not currently in a position to join the endorsement, we continue to support the overall goals reflected in the call. We will continue to engage governments, industry and civil society to counter terrorist content on the internet," White House said in a statement.
The statement cited freedom of expression and freedom of the press as reasons to not join the agreement.
"We encourage technology companies to enforce their terms of service and community standards that forbid the use of their platforms for terrorist purposes. 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," the statement read.
'Christchurch Call' was announced on Wednesday in Paris at a meeting of digital leaders of G7 nations, two months after the mass shooting on two mosques in Christchurch that left 51 people dead and about as many wounded. The summit was co-organised by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron.
"This call to action is not just about regulation, but instead about bringing companies to the table and saying, 'You have a role too, and we have expectations from you,'" CNN quoted Jacinda Ardern as saying.
Notably, social media giant Facebook has signed on to the agreement and also introduced new rules for its live streaming feature. According to the company's spokesperson, under the new policy, the alleged Christchurch shooter would not have been able to live stream the massacre.
The company has also announced that it will invest USD 7.5 million in a research partnership with universities that would study ways to improve the existing image and video analysis technology.
Following the Christchurch terror attack, some users had modified the terrorist video footage to avoid detection in order to report it after it had been taken down. Facebook and some other social media companies were heavily criticised for failing to curb the spread of that footage.
Fewer than 200 people watched the live stream during the terror attack, which Facebook said it removed 29 minutes after it began. But within 24 hours, users had attempted to re-upload the video onto Facebook more than 1.5 million times. More than a month after the shooting, its copies could still be found on major tech sites.
"When it came to the way this attack was specifically designed to be broadcast and to go viral, (responding) to that needed a global solution, so that was why we immediately got in contact with international counterparts," said Ardern.