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U.S. Will Not Join Tech Giants In 'Christchurch Call' Pledge Against Online Terror


Social media giants say they will work with heads of state to regulate extremist content that spreads online. One key player has refused to endorse the plan - the United States. NPR's Aarti Shahani reports.

AARTI SHAHANI, BYLINE: There is a growing rift between the U.S. government and, well, the world. That rift was on full display at the Elysee Palace in Paris.


PRIME MINISTER JACINDA ARDERN: Fifty-one men, women and children from the New Zealand Muslim community were killed and were killed online.

SHAHANI: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern helped convene a summit. Today is the two-month anniversary of the Christchurch shooting, where a gunman used Facebook Live to broadcast his massacre. Ardern...


ARDERN: The social media dimension to the attack was unprecedented, and our response today with the adoption of the Christchurch call is equally unprecedented.

SHAHANI: It's been a long road for tech leaders who once fancied themselves protectors of speech, who feared looking too chummy with governments. Now in Paris, Facebook, Google, YouTube, Amazon, Twitter and Microsoft are entering a voluntary compact. It's called the Christchurch Call. Basically they're agreeing to beef up their efforts to catch terrorist content as it spreads across platforms. And they say they'll share more data with each other to make their algorithms smarter, better at identifying a video by ISIS or a white nationalist.


ARDERN: Never before have countries and tech companies come together in the wake of an horrific attack to commit to an action plan.

SHAHANI: The social media giants agreed to work with governments to redirect users away from extremism and let investigators in. French President Emmanuel Macron, heard here with an English voice-over, says he and Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg have come to an agreement.


PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON: (Through interpreter) He has authorized the regulator teams - the teams of French regulators - to join his machine to share confidential information to fight against terrorist content but also hatred content or harassment methods.

SHAHANI: More than a dozen countries have signed today's pact, including France, Germany, United Kingdom, India, Australia and New Zealand. The U.S. is staying out of the deal. The White House sent a tech policy adviser to observe and show support. But in a statement, the Trump administration said the best tool to defeat terrorist speech is productive speech, and thus we emphasize the importance of promoting credible alternative narratives. This stance puts the U.S. increasingly at odds with other countries as well as with American tech giants. Aarti Shahani, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Aarti Shahani is a correspondent for NPR. Based in Silicon Valley, she covers the biggest companies on earth. She is also an author. Her first book, Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares (out Oct. 1, 2019), is about the extreme ups and downs her family encountered as immigrants in the U.S. Before journalism, Shahani was a community organizer in her native New York City, helping prisoners and families facing deportation. Even if it looks like she keeps changing careers, she's always doing the same thing: telling stories that matter.