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New Zealand, France Plan in Effort to Stop Promotion of Terrorism, Violent Extremism on Social Media

A lone gunman killed 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch on March 15, while livestreaming the massacre on Facebook

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facebook, christchurch attack, new zealand
FILE - The Facebook logo is seen on a shop window in Malaga, Spain, June 4, 2018. (VOA)

In the wake of the Christchurch attack, New Zealand said on Wednesday that it would work with France in an effort to stop social media from being used to promote terrorism and violent extremism.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement that she will co-chair a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on May 15 that will seek to have world leaders and CEOs of tech companies agree to a pledge, called the Christchurch Call, to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.

A lone gunman killed 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch on March 15, while livestreaming the massacre on Facebook.

Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, has been charged with 50 counts of murder for the mass shooting.

christchurch attack, new zealand, facebook
Students light candles as they gather for a vigil to commemorate victims of Friday’s shooting, outside the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 18, 2019. (VOA)

“It’s critical that technology platforms like Facebook are not perverted as a tool for terrorism, and instead become part of a global solution to countering extremism,” Ardern said in the statement.

“This meeting presents an opportunity for an act of unity between governments and the tech companies,” she added.

The meeting will be held alongside the Tech for Humanity meeting of G7 digital ministers, of which France is the chair, and France’s separate Tech for Good summit, both on 15 May, the statement said.

Ardern said at a press conference later on Wednesday that she has spoken with executives from a number of tech firms including Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Google and few other companies.

“The response I’ve received has been positive. No tech company, just like no government, would like to see violent extremism and terrorism online,” Ardern said at the media briefing, adding that she had also spoken with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg directly on the topic.

christchurch attack, facebook, new zealand
Facebook, the world’s largest social network with 2.7 billion users, has faced criticism since the Christchurch attack that it failed to tackle extremism. VOA

A Facebook spokesman said the company looks forward to collaborating with government, industry and safety experts on a clear framework of rules.

“We’re evaluating how we can best support this effort and who among top Facebook executives will attend,” the spokesman said in a statement sent by email. Facebook, the world’s largest social network with 2.7 billion users, has faced criticism since the Christchurch attack that it failed to tackle extremism.

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One of the main groups representing Muslims in France has said it was suing Facebook and YouTube, a unit of Alphabet’s Google, accusing them of inciting violence by allowing the streaming of the Christchurch massacre on their platforms.

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said last month that the company was looking to place restrictions on who can go live on its platform based on certain criteria. (VOA)

Next Story

Social Networking Giant Facebook Blames Apple iOS for Bezos’ Phone Hacking

WhatsApp provides end-to-end encryption by default, which means only the sender and recipient can view the messages

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Social Media, Facebook, Authenticity, Posts
The social media application, Facebook is displayed on Apple's App Store, July 30, 2019. VOA

Facebook has blamed Apple’s operating system for the hacking of Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos’ phone, saying WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption is unhackable.

Investigators believe that Bezos’s iPhone was compromised after he received a 4.4MB video file containing malware via WhatsApp – in the same way when phones of 1,400 select journalists and human rights activists were broken into by Pegasus software from Israel-based NSO Group last year.

In an interview to the BBC last week, Facebook’s Vice President of Global Affairs and Communications, Nick Clegg, said it wasn’t WhatsApp’s fault because end-to-end encryption is unhackable and blamed Apple’s operating system for Bezos’ episode.

“It sounds like something on the, you know, what they call the operate, operated on the phone itself. It can’t have been anything on the, when the message was sent, in transit, because that’s end-to-end encrypted on WhatsApp,” Clegg told the show host.

Clegg compared the hack to opening a malicious email, saying that “it only comes to life when you open it”.

According to a report from FTI Consulting, a firm that has investigated Bezos’ phone, after that the video file was received, Bezos’ phone started sending unusually large amounts of outbound data, including his intimate messages with his girlfriend Lauren Sanchez.

Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and owner of Blue Origin. (Wikimedia commons)

According to Clegg, “something” must have affected the phone’s operating system.

“As sure as you can be that the technology of end-to-end encryption cannot, other than unless you have handset, or you have the message at either end, cannot be hacked into,” he was quoted as saying.

Apple was yet to comment on Facebook’s statement.

The NSO Group has denied it was part of Bezos’ hacking.

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WhatsApp provides end-to-end encryption by default, which means only the sender and recipient can view the messages. But the piece of NSO Group software exploited WhatsApp’s video calling system by installing the spyware via missed calls to snoop on the selected users.

According to leading tech policy and media consultant Prasanto K. Roy, end-to-end encrypted apps (E2EE) do provide security, and messages or calls cannot be intercepted and decrypted en route without enormous computing resources.

“But once anyone can get to your handset, whether a human or a piece of software, the encryption doesn’t matter anymore. Because on your handset, it’s all decrypted,” Roy told IANS recently. (IANS)