The CEOs of New Zealand’s three largest broadband service providers — Simon Moutter (Spark), Jason Paris (Vodafone) and Stewart Sherriff (2degrees) — have penned an open letter to the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter and Google calling on them to work urgently with the industry and government to find ways of preventing the proliferation of content like the live coverage of the Christchurch massacre proliferating across the Internet.
In the wake of the event all three telcos took the unprecedented step of jointly identifying and suspending access to websites hosting the footage.
They acknowledged that in doing so they may have blocked access to legitimate content, raising questions about censorship but said this creates more reason for an urgent and broader discussion.
They also acknowledged that the problem is global, not local, but said the discussion must start somewhere, and social media companies and hosting platforms that enable the sharing of user generated content with the public have a legal duty of care to protect users and wider society by preventing the uploading and sharing of content such as the Christchurch killer’s video.
“We must find the right balance between internet freedom and the need to protect New Zealanders, especially the young and vulnerable, from harmful content,” the letter said.
They suggest AI techniques currently used to identify copyright infringements could be adapted and this should be prioritised as a matter of urgency.
However, “for the most serious types of content, such as terrorist content, more onerous requirements should apply, such as proposed in Europe, including take down within a specified period, proactive measures and fines for failure to do so.”