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Supporting vital voices to the Christchurch Call

Ellen Strickland, Guest Post. 08 May 2019, 7:00 am
Supporting vital voices to the Christchurch Call

The "Christchurch Call' meeting is being held in Paris on 15 May 2019. It aims to "bring together countries and tech companies in an attempt to bring to an end the ability to use social media to organise and promote terrorism and violent extremism."

With this important conversation happening, we've been thinking about how we can help as many voices be heard as possible in these discussions. At InternetNZ, we fundamentally believe in involving everyone in understanding, debating and agreeing what we do with our Internet. As Jordan Carter said in his previous blog post:

"Besides governments and the social media platforms, the broader technology sector and various civil society interests should be in the room helping to discuss and finalise the Call. This is because the long history of Internet policy-making shows that you get the best outcomes when all the relevant voices are in the room. Civil society plays a crucial role in helping make sure blind spots on the part of big players like government and platforms aren't overlooked. We can't see a situation where governments and tech companies finalise the call, and the tech sector and civil society are only brought in on the 'how to implement' stage."

InternetNZ is committed to multistakeholderism when it comes to policy impacting the Internet. While this process isn't multistakeholder, and we believe it would be better if it was, it's important to us at InternetNZ that as many voices and stakeholders as possible are able to participate in this Christchurch Call process. This blog post is about how we achieve that.

Supporting domestic stakeholder discussion

Firstly, we want to see New Zealand domestic stakeholders have a chance to discuss and engage with the New Zealand Government prior to the Paris meeting. With the New Zealand Government playing this visible leadership role, it's important that a diverse range of New Zealand voices are heard. The timeframe of the Christchurch Call makes this a challenge, as does the lack of visibility about the outputs of this process.

We are pleased that the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet will be holding meetings with some domestic stakeholders, in the InternetNZ offices in Wellington. This will happen on Friday 10 May prior to the Christchurch Call meetings in Paris. Jordan and I will be participating in this meeting. It will provide opportunity for some of these domestic perspectives to be heard by the New Zealand Government before the meeting in Paris.

Advocating for global voices

The issues being addressed in the Christchurch Call, and the potential actions around them, are global. Terrorism and violent extremism are issues that we, as societies, face. As the Christchurch Call considers potential actions around the role social media plays in these issues, expertise and perspectives from global civil society, academic and the technical community are vital to understanding and taking action. This action needs to be meaningful, impactful and minimises potential unintended and negative consequences for the Internet and for our societies.

We believe in the value of open processes and engagement for Internet governance. In our engagement with the New Zealand Government, we are advocating for the importance of engaging civil society, academics and the technical community as much and as openly as possible. This isn't a multistakeholder process. It isn't open or transparent. But we have chosen to work to support what input is possible into this process, being what it is.

The New Zealand Government has issued invitations to a range of global civil society voices to a meeting to be held in Paris the day before the leaders meet about the Christchurch Call. InternetNZ is among the organisations invited and InternetNZ Chief Executive Jordan Carter has been invited to help facilitate this meeting. Our desire is that the voices of civil society and the technical community are able to be impactful at this meeting, so we are doing what we can to support others who care about these issues and the Christchurch Call process to make their voices heard as well.

Towards this, InternetNZ has set up a call for collaboration and an online forum for coordination between interested members of civil society, academic and the technical community. The forum is to help support dialogue and discussion; to support attendees at the official meeting to connect with other interested stakeholders; and to help those not invited into the official process to think about the issues and to take action, through statements and providing input to those who are invited.

Through engaging in the government meetings and supporting a collaboration process, my hope is that InternetNZ can help support bringing as many voices  into this process as possible. A couple of meetings can't represent all the important perspectives on these issues and how to address them, but together we can bring some diverse voices and some other perspectives  not invited to the process, which is better than a closed door.

After Paris

More conversation and voices will be necessary to understand the Call once it is made, and to plan action and implementation afterward. Given the global nature of the Internet, and the issues around terrorism and violent extremism, we want to provide an opportunity for global voices to work together and help build understanding about the Christchurch Call process outputs.

In New Zealand, InternetNZ is exploring options with partners to host an open summit on the issues related to the Call later in the year. Our national NetHui will  be held in Wellington in October, so we expect this process and the related issues will be on the table there too.

Internationally, InternetNZ supports the annual United Nations' Internet Governance Forum, which this year will be in Berlin in November, as an important multistakeholder space to discuss Internet issues and Internet policy. We expect that will be a place where the discussions around the Christchurch Call and the issues related to it should continue. The focus of this call relates to issues and questions of content regulation and jurisdictional issues which face the Internet broadly.

Other processes and discussions are also likely, and we will be a part of those and hope others will too.  

If you have a voice to add around the issues at stake in the Christchurch Call, you can share your voice via the online forum. Join some of the meetings and discussion taking place from there, and help spread the word to others who care about and have important perspectives on terrorism, violent extremism and social media. #ChristchurchCallVoices

Ellen Strickland is InternetNZ's Policy Director. Reposted with kind permission.


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