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Regulating social media

Written By: - Date published: 7:48 am, April 26th, 2019 - 83 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, Deep stuff, facebook, internet, interweb, jacinda ardern, Media, Politics, twitter - Tags:

I found it fascinating that in the wake of the Sri Lankan attacks, their government had the ability to simply shut Facebook and Twitter down, on security grounds. So at least in those countries with a developed and centralized i.t. infrastructure, full regulation is possible.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron will lead a summit in May that seeks to eliminate violent extremist content in the wake of the March 15 attacks in Christchurch.

She has noted in her media release:

The March 15 attacks saw social media used in an unprecedented way as a tool to promote an act of terrorism and hate. We are asking for a show of leadership to ensure social media cannot be used again the way it was in the March 15 terrorist attack.

It is 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. The meeting presents an opportunity for an act of unity between governments and tech companies.”

It is possible that the zeitgeist for global social media regulation is peaking at the right time, and the big tech giants will accede.

But so far, no.

Speaking a few days after the Christchurch massacre, Mark Zuckerberg refused to stop live streaming, even under such circumstance as filming a massacre.

He has said that he is open to the industry being content-regulated. Kind of.

His opinion in the New York  Times said that “regulation could set baselines for what’s prohibited and require companies to build systems for keeping harmful content to a bare minimum.” The tech industry has long said that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is vital to its ability to operate open platforms. The provision exempts companies from being liable for user-generated content.

In a comparable global moment of media expansion in the 1920s, the U.S. National Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters was formed to pre-empt strong state regulation. Their code for self-regulating broadcast representation in the 1920s included:

  • The presentation of cruelty, greed and selfishness as worthy motivations is to be avoided
  • Criminality shall be presented as undesirable and unsympathetic
  • The presentation of techniques of crime in such detail as to invite imitation is to be avoided
  • The use of horror for its own sake will be eliminated (…)
  • Law enforcement shall be upheld, and the officers of the law are to be portrayed with respect and dignity
  • The presentation of murder or revenge as a motive for murder shall not be presented as justifiable
  • The appearance or dramatization of such persons featured in actual crime will be permitted only in such light as to aid law enforcement or report the news event.

All sounds quite arcane, twee and moralistic now. But what those television, film and radio companies were seeking to forestall through self-regulation was the growth of state-by-state film and broadcasting censorship boards; a near-identical historical moment to what we are in now. And they largely they achieved this. If Mark Zuckerberg had any sense, he would attempt something similar, before the world does it to him.

It’s the U.S. media laws that have framed our own, and it remains the case that it’s U.S. media and social media companies that dominate us in New Zealand. So it’s relevant that we turn to U.S. regulation as useful comparators.

If social media companies are obviously capable of airbrushing every single sign of nudity on Youtube, and stop any copyright infringement in seconds, then yes they really can stop terrorist content if they feel like it. They only started to clean out the vile Alex Jones posts on the Sandy Hook massacre after the court case against him started to go the way of the victims who were suing him.

The U.S. Supreme Court has already determined that the federal government may prohibit providing non-violent material support for terrorist organizations including legal services and advice without violating the free speech clause of the First Amendment.

So there’s a really good case there for Congress to pass a law prohibiting coordination or support between digital companies and domestic terror organizations.

In distinction to television and radio, what we have had with U.S.-based social media companies is a near-complete lack of self-regulation, in favour of becoming personal data-harvesting conglomerates with none of the privacy restrictions that so hobble the states’ own surveillance powers, and none of the public policy guidance that a safe society needs. They make Foucault’s panopticon look like a mere tree hut.

The only thing that would get these massive media companies (for that is what they are) under control is to bring them under the regulation of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC). This may well take a change of U.S. President and a Democratic majority in the Senate to achieve, but I don’t think that’s too far away.

The FCC was established by Franklin Roosevelt with the assumption that the airwaves belonged to the people, much in the same way that federal forest land or seabed exploration blocks belonged to the people.

Broadcasters applied for a license to use a section of the public property, which was a specific frequency. In return broadcasters had an obligation to serve the interest of the community. The FCC had the right to restrict content such as obscene material, and require balance and fairness in political broadcasting, and to insist that a part of each broadcasting week be devoted for public use.

The U.S. FCC has been a good global benchmark for regulating broadcasting in a reasonably light handed manner.

Putting the U.S. social media companies under the FCC would become the precursor to global content policing of social media.

You may well say that is impossible, but then, world trade regulation was considered impossible until the 1980s. Global nuclear bomb test regulation was considered impossible particularly in the Cold War. There are multiple active and successful global regulatory regimes.

Even today on New Zealand television’s state channels, there are still vestiges of similar controls in specifying kinds of programme that should occur at specific times, specific targeted ‘public good’ broadcasts that may not be justified by ratings, and specific ways political broadcasts are treated.

As soon as we compare making social media companies subject to the same kind of state controls that television and radio have had to abide by for decades, the reckless irresponsibility of the big social media companies in extremist broadcasting becomes apparent.

Prime Minister Ardern has not yet set the terms of reference for the Royal Commission in to the preparedness, focus, and resources of security and border agencies prior to the Christchurch massacre. Very curious. Perhaps she is using the French summit as a rehearsal to get her thinking straight.

Prime Minister Ardern won’t get global regulation of social media overnight, but she and Macron are going for a really, really big global regulatory prize that may take decades to achieve.

The results of the Royal Commission must not result in yet more powers to the SIS and GCSB, or even necessarily more generous and more horizontal profiling.

It must result in the state being able, where it needs to, to shut the whole of social media down for a time to re-establish the security of New Zealand. We won’t be safe until this is assured.

If we are lucky it will result in the ability to treat social media like any other broadcast, and to censor and sanction the broadcaster.

83 comments on “Regulating social media”

  1. Sanctuary 1

    Compare Facebook live with the Boeing 737 Max debacle. If there is an aircraft which has a serious defect then that aircraft is taken out of service until it is fixed, period. 


    Yet somehow a tech company is able to keep a product availiable which it is known is flawed and can be used to broadcast and amplify mass murder. 


    In a sane world, Facebook would be forced to suspend the Facebook Live product until it came back with a serious plan to address the obvious safety issues.

  2. One Two 2

    Will Adern and Macron be asking for their respective military, mercenary and spy agencies to halt committing extreme acts of terror like activity and violence…

    Or are they both more comfortable deflecting responsibility elsewhere…

    • SHG 3.1

      Twitter also operates in Germany, where there are very strict laws about Nazi content, and you better believe that shit is blocked there.

      Try changing your Twitter location to "Germany" and watch all the Nazi content disappear.


      • tc 3.1.1

        Bit like google altering maps based on where you are as it shows Tibet as part of china or independant base on where it thinks you're coming from.

        The Zuck has zero credibility here and performed very badly in front of congress when asked tough questions by the likes of Dianne Feinsten.

        Behaved as if he knew this would blow over and stalled mostly unable or unwilling to respond.

        Greg Proops nailed it with the line ‘…he forgot his flip flops and bathrobe…’

  3. alwyn 4

    "Prime Minister Ardern has not yet set the terms of reference for the Royal Commission in to the preparedness, focus, and resources of security and border agencies prior to the Christchurch massacre.".

    I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for her to do so at any time soon either. The problem with details, or deliverables, for a policy is that they can be debated and measured. That means that defining details means that a performance can be judged and Ardern tries to avoid that at all costs.

    Just look at the subject of KiwiBuild. When there were defined targets it was easy to see that it was, like almost all the projects that the CoL are involved in, an abject failure. Hence she has decided that there will not be any targets at all and therefore people who point out that these projects are a failure can be ignored because she refuses to have any measures of success to determine that fact.

    Her speeches and public statements are all completely woolly and waffly. On things like the statements after the terrible Christchurch tragedy she is superb. She can certainly provide wonderful empathetic performances when required. In Parliament at Question Time her inability to answer questions because she simply doesn't know what is going on is however dreadfully exposed. She has to have the old fellows like Trevor and Winston defending her on almost every question. It makes them look foolish of course but they have to do it if the Government is to continue to look even remotely presentable.

    Let's face it. Jacinda Ardern is New Zealand's updated version of the late Princess of Wales. At what she can do she is very, very good. At the Business of Government however she is horrid.

    • Sancho_Panza 4.1

      Dearest alwyn, I have been a fan of yours for a long time but with regard to

      ""Prime Minister Ardern has not yet set the terms of reference for the Royal Commission in to the preparedness, focus, and resources of security and border agencies prior to the Christchurch massacre." 

      .. she has a legal team for that purpose.

      "I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for her to do so at any time soon either. The problem with details, or deliverables, for a policy is that they can be debated and measured. That means that defining details means that a performance can be judged and Ardern tries to avoid that at all costs."

      .. *precisely* what a legal does.

      "Just look at the subject of KiwiBuild. When there were defined targets it was easy to see that it was, like almost all the projects that the CoL are involved in, an abject failure. Hence she has decided that there will not be any targets at all and therefore people who point out that these projects are a failure can be ignored because she refuses to have any measures of success to determine that fact."

      Great obfuscation. What is your metric of 'success' ? 

      "Her speeches and public statements are all completely woolly and waffly. On things like the statements after the terrible Christchurch tragedy she is superb. She can certainly provide wonderful empathetic performances when required. In Parliament at Question Time her inability to answer questions because she simply doesn't know what is going on is however dreadfully exposed. She has to have the old fellows like Trevor and Winston defending her on almost every question. It makes them look foolish of course but they have to do it if the Government is to continue to look even remotely presentable."

      What micron is the wool ? Nice positives. She has capable staff re. "what is going on". Trevor & Winston? Politicians mature like fine wines. Thanks for your feedback on presentation. There is an expensive program we can sell you for that purpose ..


      • alwyn 4.1.1

        "What is your metric of 'success' ?"

        Why not the ones that Twyford announced when they first came into Government. They were pretty wimpy, and certainly not as significant as his promises before the election when he was pretty certain he wasn't going to have to do anything but here they are anyway.

        1000 by July 2019. Another 5000 by July 2020. A further 10,000 by July 2021.

        Of course they never came anywhere close to even the first, pretty easy, target so in January this year the numbers were "recalibrated" and all targets short of a phantom one in 10 years time were abandoned.


        As for your comment that  " Politicians mature like fine wines". Both Peters and Ardern claim that they prefer to drink Whisky. Once bottled that doesn't change at all. If it was awful when bottled, like them, it will still be exactly the same after a hundred years, which feels like the time that Winston seems to have cast a dark cloud over Parliament.

        No, our Prime Minister has decided that she likes the look of a plan to "manage Social Media on the Internet". It will take forever and, because New Zealand doesn't actually have any power in that area there is no way to judge her failure. It usually takes until the third term before Prime Ministers start to dream that they are World Statesmen and that the trivia of Government is all just to hard and anyway is beneath their dignity. Muldoon in Term 3 started warbling about re-organising the World Monetary System. Clark dreamed about re-organising the UN. Key at least had the sense to decide he was tired out and resigned, rather than wasting all his time and our money on irrelevant things. Ardern has reached the "It's all to hard stage" after only a little over a year.

        • Peter

          Maybe if Ardern has reached the "It's all to hard stage" after only a little over a year she should throw it all over to us. We have all the answers for everything and we never tire.

          • alwyn

            You speak for yourself. I think I would make a pretty poor MP. I would find dealing with idiots rather too tiring to interest me. I think my model of the ideal politician would be former Senator Paul Douglas of Illinois. He was famous, or notorious, for his replies to foolish letters from his constituents. He did last in the Senate for 18 years though so he can't have found it that painful. Good economist though.

            His response were often along the lines of. "I have received this ridiculous letter from someone who has signed your name to it. I feel you should know that there is a lunatic out there who is pretending to be you".

        • peterh

          Irrelevant things like flags

          • alwyn

            Well Labour did want to change the flag in 2014. It was part of their Internal Affairs Policy. They didn't win though so they had to wait until National proposed it.

            "Labour would also review the design of the New Zealand flag, with the party saying "the time has come for a change and it is right for the issue to be put to the public". That was Trevor Mallard announcing it of course.


            Given the result of the referendum I doubt if Jacinda would want to open it again. A bit to contentious for her, isn't it?

            • lprent

              A bit contentious a few years after the previous abortion of process – basically John Key screwed it up by trying to make it about his egotism.

              Besides if you’d look at the originating Labour policy from before 2014, you’ll find that it was pretty clearly related to also having a close look at changing the governing constitutional arrangements of government. Now that would be contentious. But it also a mildly quiescent movement these days.

              Personally I can’t figure out how you’d disentangle it from Treaty of Waitangi issues bearing in mind some of our more bigoted fools (mostly recent (ie less than 3 generation) immigrant white males) on the right.

              • alwyn

                I can see how much broader issues relating to the Constitutional Arrangements we have could get tied up in TOW issues but I can't see that it would have anything to do with the flag.

                The current one wasn't adopted until 1902 after all and that was a long time after the Treaty. It doesn't really have any relationship to the events of 1840 does it?

                I only brought it up because peterh seemed to think it was of some concern. I'm not sure why he wanted to bring up a former Labour Policy as being of any significance to the current PM though.

                • lprent

                  Why bother changing the flag if there are no meaningful changes to the way the country operates? Seems like a completely pointless activity.

                  The current flag (actually from memory the red one) was legislatedinto law 1902. However it had been created and widely used from 1869. As wikipedia says

                  The current flag was designed and adopted for use on the colony’s ships in 1869, was quickly adopted as New Zealand’s national flag, and given statutory recognition in 1902.

                  If you dig into the history a bit you will find that the style of the current flag was that of one of the Maori flags prior to 1840.

                  • KJT

                    The red ensign is still the flag flown by NZ, Merchant Navy ships, the few that are left.

                    Following the UK custom of a blue ensign for civilians ashore, the white ensign, for navy ships, and the red, for merchant ships.


                  • Sacha

                    Yep, why bother. Find a New Zealander under 30 who gives a stuff about flags (possibly a recruiting question for the Young Nats).

            • peterh

              Labour spent $0 Key $27 million

              You were stating wasteing money, not this other crap. you can bullshit yourself all you like. but the old saying money talks

              • alwyn

                As I commented. Labour lost the election and therefore didn't get the chance to put their proposal forward. They wanted to though.

                Are you talking about Labour or National by the way? When you put in that rather cryptic "Irrelevant things like flags" I thought you were talking about projects the Labour Party wanted to carry out.


                • peterh

                  Not once have I mention national. are you still trying to bullshit yourself Key is the word

    • MickeyBoyle 4.2

      As I stated in another blog recently, I am completely off the Ardern bandwagon. I agree with you, she's good at all the niceties but cannot govern for shit. Look at our poverty and inequality figures, they have all significantly worsened since the formation of this government. I'm ashamed that what I thought was a progressive forward thinking government, are instead delivering the same neoliberal bullshit as the previous lot. Our ever growing poor are suffering!!. As the husband of a disabled wife, I believe I can handle most news with a stiff upper lip, but not this nonsense. I was expecting and hoping for a lot more. Yes we can lay some of the blame on Winston and Co. but Ardern did not get off the stool before she threw the towel in for a CGT. It's all about maintaining power, it has nothing to do with transformation or fairness, shame on them and us for being so completely piss weak to make the changes we need to make. Anyone expecting anything different in the next 18 months, in regards to the climate or the workplace is frankly delusional.

      • patricia bremner 4.2.1

        So have you seen the budget Mickey Boyle?  You seem to think nothing is being done

        "It's all about maintaining power"  No it is not.   It is about trying to cope with ongoing problems like Mico plasma Bovis, pollution, rotten hospitals,  housing the homeless,  and running the country while some countries are causing Trade wars and fundamentalist Right wing and ISIS are killing innocents.    This Government is doing amazing things.   You have a genuine gripe,  but give them a chance. Come back after the Budget.

    • patricia bremner 4.3

      Alwyn, at 4 Oh and Key would "forget"  fudge and say" he wasn't wearing that hat."

      He also made speeches full of promises which he broke!!   No GST,  " Bring the miners home"   "Raise our wages up to Australias!!"

      Bullshit and jelly beans.  Your meme is already old hat Alwyn!! Troll like!!

    • ankerawshark 4.4

      Alywin being predictable right wing meme about Jacinda; being all shine and no substance:foolish")  again…..


      Ha, ha ha Alywin, Ardern will romp home in 2020……suck it up 


    • New view 4.5

      Hard to disagree with one word you’ve written Alwyn

  4. RedLogix 5

    FCC regulations worked when there were professional standards to promulgate, a clear chain of responsibility for content creation, and media organisations that could be held to account.

    By contrast the social media giants like FB are conceived as platform; it is users themselves who are both the consumers and publishers at the same time.  Requiring social media platforms to regulate the content their users create dramatically shifts the responsibility back to the old model. It would by definition no longer be social media.

    And in this postmodern age where there are no absolute standards, where reason itself is considered nothing more than the views of the privileged, who will do the deciding?  How do we tell the difference between video of US soldiers gunning down alleged terrorists and terrorists gunning down people at worship, when one man's 'terrorist' is another's 'defender of freedom' ?

    The problem is exactly the same as we have moderating a tiny site like The Standard, just writ orders of magnitude larger. It's easy enough to trim out the extremist nasties, but very quickly this power is exploited to impose an agenda, and creates an atmosphere where it isn't safe to say anything important for fear of offending or being labelled racist, misogynist, etc.Very quickly the solution becomes worse than the problem you were trying to solve.

    The challenge I put to everyone who supports mass censorship is simply this; what makes you think the people doing the censoring will always agree with what you want to say?

    The internet tends to treat censorship as damage. While there isn't much in the way of nudity on YouTube (actually there is some .. I went and checked) this doesn't mean there isn't any amount of porn to be found elsewhere. Vile and hateful things will always find somewhere to be hosted, and the internet is nothing if not one giant copying machine. Regulating the big social media platforms simply transfers the problem elsewhere.

    The Chinese tackled this head on with a government panopticon which monitors and controls everything. (You can get into trouble just using the phrase "Winnie the Pooh".) Given the CCP's obvious expertise in this area, maybe we should just offshore the job of our 'internet safety' off to them.

    • Requiring social media platforms to regulate the content their users create dramatically shifts the responsibility back to the old model.

      Too late, we're already there.  Facebook et al are so fast at identifying and blocking any photo with a female nipple in it not because the company CEOs are prudes, but because conservative governments will put a stick in their spokes if they allow nudity and that would damage their business. If we've all accepted that without qualm, on what basis do we object to other governments threatening social media companies' business model for whatever reasons they like?

      • RedLogix 5.2.1

        Yup. Well researched and very interesting. I was completely unaware of Section 230 and it's implications.

      • Ad 5.2.2

        Crikey I didn't even read that before I posted this one. 

        Campbell has one level of freedom he proposes for social media, and one for mainstream media. He does that because he appears to accept that social media doesn't curate its content like mainstream media does. 

        He's simply wrong. The algorithms that social media devise for us are simply more accurate versions of advertising targeting within broadcast television. Social media curates content just like any other broadcast, and should be regulated on that basis. 

        Campbell is also being far too left-biased in outright rejecting state social media limitations because they come from conservative governments. He should take a step back and look at the state regulation proposals as if they came from left governments – I suspect he'd like them more if he did. 

        Campbell should also heed the lessons of the Mueller report: it's critical that social media are regulated in order that political balance of broadcasting is maintained, or else the results of the common political will get massively distorted. As mainstream media have been regulated to enable balance in political advocacy, so too must social media. The Republicans and the Democrats can agree on that one for a start.

        No doubt Ardern and Macron will not achieve everything they want in one meeting, but that's a cynical write-off. We need to see this conference as a start at shifting a very big mountain, one loving spoonful at a time.

        • SPC

          Good luck, the content you want regulated is the exercise of free speech by the public – with the moderation by the social media host determined by law. 

          The Americans have their constitional issues, and we will have the political right fighting the threat against free speech.

          • Ad

            Free speech in broadcasting has been regulated for nearly a century.  All that's required is consistency.

            Both sides of the political spectrum in advanced democracies fight threats to free speech – and also fight threats to human life within speech.


        • RedLogix

          As mainstream media have been regulated to enable balance in political advocacy, so too must social media.

          But how?  I'm not sure we can abdicate the job to impartial algorithms.

          • Ad

            Of course we can. 

            They regulated most of our lives already, just fine.

            • RedLogix

              Given we cannot properly define 'hate speech' ourselves, it's a remarkable leap of faith to think we can entrust AI systems (which is what we're really talking about) to do it any better.

              It's one thing to use devise a system to block nipples, quite another to block thoughts and ideas.

        • Nic the NZer

          As mainstream media have been regulated to enable balance in political advocacy, so too must social media.

          Just how are mainstream media being regulated to provide balance?

          As far as i am aware Fox have zero legal obligation to be "fair and balanced".

  5. Meantime things like Press TV (Iranian)disappear and no one says Boo! But then if Israel and Saudi Arabia would like you to disappear..you're gone..

    Facebook recently shut down multiple Iranian-sponsored groups and accounts that have been accused of spreading fake news in multiple countries. The company explained that "the pages routinely amplified Iranian state narratives, targeting Israel, the United States, and Saudi Arabia, especially for their roles in the Middle East, and focusing on the Yemen and Palestine conflicts. The pages often shared articles from websites which reproduced, verbatim, content from Iranian state or state-allied outlets, such as Press TV." 

    Fine, I can go along with that…but lets change the wording a bit..

    Facebook recently shut down multiple American / UK-sponsored groups and accounts that have been accused of spreading fake news in multiple countries. The company explained that "the pages routinely amplified American/UK state narratives, targeting Palestine, the Democratic Socialists/Corbyn, and Russia, especially for their roles in upsetting social order, and focusing on their threat to the economy. The pages often shared articles from websites which reproduced, verbatim, content from American/UK state or state-allied outlets, such as The Guardian."



  6. Sacha 8

    The roadblock to progress is, as usual, the USA: https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=12224943

    The dangers posed by social media are certainly global, but the companies at the centre of the mess are American – and that doesn't bode well for any hope of constraining them through regulation.

  7. gsays 9

    While I believe their (Ardern and Macron) intentions are good, it seems a bit like pushing the proverbial uphill with a pointy stick.


    I would like there to be prosecutions for folk that shared the live stream feed.

    If laws were to limit or stifle FB's ability to make money then we may be in breach of the TPPA (or whatever alphabet soup it is called now).


    I come back to the population being the enablers of FB and it's undesirable behaviour.


    A random straw poll question: Since the ChCh murders have you changed/limited/stopped your FB use?

  8. SHG 10

    Railroad companies getting too dominant? Boom, ICC and Sherman Antitrust Act.

    Standard Oil too dominant? Boom, broken up.

    AT&T too dominant? Boom, broken up.

    Microsoft too dominant? Prosecution under Sherman, all sorts of sanctions.

    Facebook too dominant? Oh noes we can't regulate Facebook, that sort of intervention  would be unprecedented


    • Ad 10.1

      There's plenty both Republicans and Democrats can agree on when it comes to regulating social media. In particular when both their jobs on the line.

  9. SPC 11

    After gun control to the world norm (once again the USA excepted) this is the other step which would have bi-partisan support. 

    While the social media companies can rely on their USA base to protect them from consequences for what people uplift to their sites (not have to vet things first) – they would probably go along with a takedown system (one does not have to be paranoid to realise a pre-post moderation system would result in politicised blacklists like that of the no fly era being normalised). And it would be an easier regime if there were a global takedown standard than a piece-meal framework in different jurisdictions. 

    While it is a form of censorship, where it is confined to incitement to violence, promotion of terrorism etc there is little threat to free speech.

    Where there would be contention is in the takedown of hate speech, given the different regimes in differing nation states. And some would attempt to silence religious blasphemy (Moslems) and criticism of Zionism (censor nation state objection to breach of UN Resolutions as a hate crime or war crime against peace loving Israel). 

  10. joe90 12

    Rooting out white supremacists wood be difficult because it would mean banning some Republican politicians, too. Righto.



    At a Twitter all-hands meeting on March 22, an employee asked a blunt question: Twitter has largely eradicated Islamic State propaganda off its platform. Why can’t it do the same for white supremacist content?

    An executive responded by explaining that Twitter follows the law, and a technical employee who works on machine learning and artificial intelligence issues went up to the mic to add some context. (As Motherboard has previously reported, algorithms are the next great hope for platforms trying to moderate the posts of their hundreds of millions, or billions, of users.)

    With every sort of content filter, there is a tradeoff, he explained. When a platform aggressively enforces against ISIS content, for instance, it can also flag innocent accounts as well, such as Arabic language broadcasters. Society, in general, accepts the benefit of banning ISIS for inconveniencing some others, he said.

    In separate discussions verified by Motherboard, that employee said Twitter hasn’t taken the same aggressive approach to white supremacist content because the collateral accounts that are impacted can, in some instances, be Republican politicians.

    The employee argued that, on a technical level, content from Republican politicians could get swept up by algorithms aggressively removing white supremacist material. Banning politicians wouldn’t be accepted by society as a trade-off for flagging all of the white supremacist propaganda, he argued.




  11. Stuart Munro. 13

    It's curious to me, that so much ire is directed at Facebook, and so little at 4Chan and its spawn. It does seem to have been the Chans that were the Chch shooter's home ground so to speak.

    With volatile boards not preserving comments for any length of time, the Chans escape the task of judging or taking down objectionable content, but they seem to have functioned as an incitement forum in spite of, or perhaps because of this.

  12. infused 14

    You don't want a great firewall of china here. That's the problem with what Spark, Vodafone did. It won't be long until this is used again, for lesser purposes, or political purposes.

    And lets get real, it's not hard to get around. Spark etc used DNS blackholes. I think Spark went a step further and nulled the routes to their ips.

    All of which can be bypassed with a vpn or proxy.

    Anyone advocating for this is fucking stupid.

    • lprent 14.1

      All of which can be bypassed with a vpn or proxy.

      Sure it can, and yes anyone can use a VPN. However few will. And there will be people like me who will voluntarily help to plug the holes.

      What you are advocating is that facebook violates the NZ laws in NZ. What the censor is doing is what he is required to do in local laws. What Facebook are doing is something that is criminal.

      This isn’t exactly uncommon. In the UK, they’re busy looking at the extent of how Facebook participated in the violation of UK electoral laws. This clip gives a pretty good idea of the issues.

      But what really annoys me is that when called to account across multiple jurisdictions, Facebook appears to think that they are above local laws. Fine – then over time they get treated like any other overseas criminal – they get deported. It isn’t like they add anything to the local economy.

      • infused 14.1.1

        Facebook doesn't exist in NZ except for a marketing shell company. I'm not advocating anything. I'm saying as soon as the govt starts imposing bans on websites it deems to violate something, we start slipping down a mountain of shit. Someone doesn't like Jacinda? Oh, we're going to ban that. That's where it will end up.

        And heaps of people use VPNs now. Opera has one built in. Chrome is adding one soon. They can be added via simple Chrome extensions. You don't have to be a smart cookie to do it these days.

        • Incognito

          For anything that gets imported one must to fill out all the MPI (plus NZI and MBIE, to make it more ‘attractive’) paperwork to get an Import Permit. Anything that crosses our borders must be held in quarantine, fumigated, and inspected and only then released to couriers who will trash it, lose it, or deliver it way too late. Why should FB be any different? They import harmful toxic stuff into the country. That sort of stuff usually gets confiscated, destroyed, and it incurs a hefty fine and even criminal prosecution. Whether they have an office here is a red herring.

  13. Dennis Frank 15

    Good essay, Ad.  This from Gordon Campbell succinctly summarises what Ardern & Macron are up against:

    "Since Americans own and run the world’s main social media companies, any global solutions proposed in Paris next month will need to bring the US on board. Those solutions would be difficult to enforce. The US is notoriously reluctant to allow foreign tribunals to impose legal penalties on US citizens or companies."

    "US legislation that safeguards Internet freedom of expression – and the Internet’s unique ability to disseminate both hate speech and legitimate dissent – is a tiny clause that’s commonly called Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. In its entirety, it says this :

    No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."

    "US law professor Jeff Kosseff has just written an entire book about this clause and (with good reason) that book is called The Twenty Six Words That Created The Internet. Crucially, it recognises that online platforms do not and cannot, pre-moderate all or even most of the content that they carry but do not create. (For one thing, there’s just far too much of it being uploaded every hour of every week.)"

    So the devil has parked himself within an impregnable fortification in the legislative detail.  I suspect Ardern & Macron will not even get briefed by their advisors on this – too hard!  They are likely to focus on two easier, less relevant, targets.  The first being to try to secure agreement of the private service providers to policy guidelines that would serve instead of legislation.  The second being to create the perception of solving the problem in the public mind, according to the now-prevalent belief that perception trumps reality.

    • Incognito 15.1

      This doesn’t let the ‘provider’ off the hook that they have to provide a safe ‘product’. It has to be fit for purpose. Take an airplane manufacturer (topical) or a medical device maker (risky topic) or an airbag manufacturer; they are all subject to rules and regulations to safeguard the user/consumer and the general public.

      When a service provider actively promotes certain content over other and starts to personalise content based on the profile that they have built of the user (and sell to third parties) then the line between provider and creator becomes rather blurry very quickly.

      Context and place is everything. A service provider provides paint, a brush, and the canvass and then arranges the blobs of paint so that it becomes a picture that tells a story. The service providers maintain that they have created nothing??

    • Gabby 15.2

      And why can't they be treated as aiding and abetting the 'publisher' franko?

      • Dennis Frank 15.2.1

        That'd be for lawyers to decide, eh?  I suspect a consensus of opinion against, due to expectations that the Supreme Court would rule against…

  14. Dennis Frank 16

    Richard Harman:  "POLITIK has learned that there is a substantial backup project going on in the background.  [And] understands a former Wellington public relations practitioner who has subsequently held a number of government roles flew to the US on Wednesday night to make a round of meetings with American cyber academics, ngo's  and company executives.  This will be his second trip there within the past month."

    "Director of the National Cyber Policy Office, Paul Nash, who is part of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet is co-ordinating what appears to be a widespread effort by New Zealand diplomats overseas to sound out possible options."

    "POLITIK has been told the focus will be on how the social media companies — particularly, Twitter and Facebook — can be held to financial account for what is posted on their sites.  One possible option might be to create a legal action which would allow people affected by an extremist post on a site to sue for damages."

    "In 2017, France and the United Kingdom jointly announced that they were  “exploring the possibility of creating a new legal liability for tech companies if they failed to remove content,” including “penalties such as fines for companies that failed to take action.”

    "Three weeks ago, Britain proposed new online safety laws on Monday that would slap penalties on social media companies and technology firms if they failed to protect their users from harmful content.  And in France, there are already legal remedies available to persons affected by extremists posts on social media."

    "The challenge for the Prime Minister and President Macron will be to ensure the campaign is as broad as possible; that it involves as large a number of countries as possible which is why the country’s diplomats have been conscripted to round up support."

    "A statement from the Prime Minister's office on Wednesday said the Paris meeting aimed to see world leaders and CEOs of tech companies agree to a pledge called the ‘Christchurch Call’ to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online."

    "Last year’s “Tech for Good” summit attracted a “who’s who” of the tech world including  Mark Zuckerberg, the Founder and CEO, Facebook;  Satya Nadella , CEO, Microsoft;  Young Sohn, CEO, Samsung; Ginni Rometty, CEO, IBM; Jimmy Wales, Founder, Wikimedia Foundation and    Jacqueline Fuller, President, Google.org."

    "They along with representatives from key NGOs will feed into the "Christchurch Call”.  It is expected that once the broad outlines of the “Christchurch Call” have been agreed by Ardern and Macron the Minister of Communications and Digital Media, Kris Faafoi and the Minister for Government Digital Services, Megan Woods, will take over the day to day management of the campaign."

    Harman paints a picture of considerable collaboration, both in the initial preparation and the intended process.  Looks both serious and sensible.



  15. adam 17

    Lets you know how far politics has gone to the right in the last 30 odd years. When the so called leftists are at the vanguard of a call for censorship. 

    The current centre 'left' is so far right it's frightening.

    • Incognito 17.1

      You call it “censorship”; I’d call it “market regulation” and “consumer protection”. But you’re right, these are very much ideas propagated by the Left. The Right only knows “personal freedom” and “pretty legal”.

  16. David Mac 18

    I've generally done my best when I package up the things I've proven to be quite efficient at in the past. Put my best foot forward.


    I think Jacinda is in an ideal position to make a difference to how the whole world interfaces with social media. Given our recent events, if you agree changes should be made, she is putting her best foot forward.


    She doesn't have a magic housing wand and waving such a thing about would be more of the previous decade. Lip service. When NZ women got the vote, much of the Western world followed suit.


    I don't think the majority of NZers are looking for a housing or economy maestro in our leader. We are looking for a decent human being that hasn't lost touch with the way most of us feel. So far, so good.

    • SHG 18.1

      I think Jacinda is in an ideal position to make a difference to how the whole world interfaces with social media. 

      LOL Facebook doesn’t give a fuck what you think.

      Doesn’t give a fuck what Jacinda thinks either.

  17. David Mac 19

    Senators grilling Zuck vs A cup of tea with Jacinda.


    The way to win Zuckerberg and his board is to highlight how a carefully managed transition will attract rather than deter advertisers/users. Implying he has blood on his hands is an invite for worthless conflict. 

    • Ad 19.1

      I'd say the opposite. 

      Zuckerberg et al are close to becoming so vilified and mistrusted that they are the new Robber Barons of the Gilded Age, such as Cyrus Field, Jay Gould, Cornelius Vanderbilt and Russel Sage. 

      The public are not yet in full turn, but they will. 

      Social media barons require the full protection of the US state, or they become full state clients like Alibaba, Renren, Weibo, and Youku.

      In the US you need a social license to be a powerful social media company. 

      In China you just need a license

      …… and direct, very heavy, and pervasive censorship. 

      Zuckerberg gets that. 

      • David Mac 19.1.1

        I want to see the point you're making Ad, I'm missing it.


        He's some guy that has skillfully surfed a good idea….a bit like Jacinda.

        • Ad

          I'll be more direct. 

          Their time is coming. 

          Jacinda and Macron have started it. It's all they needed to do.

          • David Mac

            Ha…thanks for explaining…I'm still in the dark.


            Do you think Jacinda and Macrons' agenda is to pull the Instagram Twitter Facebook plug?


            They'd be mugs to try, people will talk. Running Facebook Live content past a volunteer adjudicator is not the death of Facebook, it's making it more attractive.

  18. David Mac 20

    "Disney and Pixar is where the serious coin is made Zuck. Family wholesome, cut the smut out of Facebook and get a boat so big you can walk to Hawaii bro."

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