Tech companies must act after NZ terror

The CEOs of tech giants have been urged to remove content that would spawn political extremism.
The CEOs of tech giants have been urged to remove content that would spawn political extremism.

Following the live-streaming on social media of the mass shooting in New Zealand, the chair of the US House Committee on Homeland Security has written to four major technology companies urging them to do a better job of removing violent political content.

In a letter dated Monday and released on Tuesday, Representative Bennie Thompson urged the CEOs of Facebook, Alphabet's Google, which owns YouTube, Twitter and Microsoft to more swiftly remove content that would spawn political extremism.

The letter follows the fatal shootings of 50 worshippers in two mosques in Christchurch last week. The shooter, a suspected white supremacist, live-streamed the killings on social media, where it was widely shared.

"Your companies must prioritise responding to these toxic and violent ideologies with resources and attention," Thomson wrote.

"If you are unwilling to do so, Congress must consider policies to ensure that terrorist content is not distributed on your platforms, including by studying the examples being set by other countries.

"The video was widely available on your platforms well after the attack, despite calls from New Zealand authorities to take these videos down," he wrote.

Facebook said it removed 1.5 million videos showing the attack in the first 24 hours after it occurred.

Thompson also asked the companies for a briefing on the matter.

A Facebook spokesman said the company "will brief the committee soon." Google, Twitter and Microsoft did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who has been critical of Facebook for privacy lapses, said on Tuesday that the government should tread carefully in reining in tech companies for fear of aiding dictators and other bad actors.

Australian Associated Press