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Jack Dorsey comes to town to discuss fake news and extremism

Paul Brislen, Editor. 09 September 2019, 5:49 am

As pressure mounts again on the social media giants (Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft) to do more to combat extremism, Twitter's founder and CEO Jack Dorsey is jetting in to New Zealand to talk to PM Jacinda Ardern in a rare one-on-one meeting.

Dorsey was one of the few social media CEOs to take part in the Christchurch Call meeting in Paris, arranged by Ardern and French president Emmanuel Macron following the Christchurch mosques terror attack in March.

According to its website, the Christchurch Call is a "commitment by Governments and tech companies to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online. It rests on the conviction that a free, open and secure internet offers extraordinary benefits to society" and includes commitments from only a handful of tech giants to do just that.

Dorsey and Twitter have less to lose than the likes of Facebook or Google in this situation. Twitter is still struggling to find a business model that suits both users and investors, doesn't have the same level of earnings as Facebook or YouTube with their advertising-driven model and consequently has been more than willing to engage on the matter of extremist content.

But movement on the Call has been quiet and Ardern flies to New York and the United Nations in two weeks to update the UN on progress amid fears the whole thing is petering out.

US presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke has sparked some life back into the discussion at least in the US where he is calling on the social media giants to do more to fight disinformation and fake accounts in the lead-up to the next presidential election in 2020.

According to Reuters, O'Rourke has written to the tech companies after false claims spread on social media that the gunman responsible for the recent mass shooting in Odessa, Texas, had a sticker supporting O'Rourke's candidacy on his truck.

"Our democracy depends on these platforms managing the crisis of disinformation. We're aware they've all made efforts to improve. We are saying these efforts have been insufficient," wrote O'Rourke's campaign manager.

Twitter is directly in the firing line on that particular issue as its seeming inability to manage fake accounts (bots) and user anonymity has lead to concerns about minority extremist content being amplified on Twitter and then spreading to other social and mainstream media publications.

Meanwhile, InternetNZ will today hold a briefing on whether or not content blocking by ISPs is something that is desirable or indeed acceptable in New Zealand.

A number of ISPs have blocked 8Chan, the message board site that hosts a vast quantity of extremist content, but have expressed their reluctance to do so. InternetNZ, which has long championed the internet as being "free and uncapturable" has produced a discussion document on the matter and is holding a discussion at its offices at 12 noon today.


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