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Varadkar to address Paris summit on online extremism

Varadkar to address Paris summit on online extremism

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is expected to tell an online extremism summit in Paris that Ireland’s experience with extremist violence is a reminder of what he called the “devastating impact” of radicalisation on families, communities and society.

The ‘Christchurch Call’ meeting comes in the wake of the New Zealand terror attacks in March, in which 51 people were murdered by a white supremacist.

The attacks were live-streamed on the social media website Facebook.

Within 24 hours Facebook had removed one and a half million copies of the atrocity.

However, even eight hours after the event, it was still accessible on YouTube, which is owned by Google.

When Google tried to remove the material from its platforms it was subjected to an unprecedented online attack by individuals who appear to have been primed to do so.

Mr Varadkar will tell the ‘Christchurch Call’ meeting that the attack on Muslims in the New Zealand capital on 15 March was an attack on “our collective international values, our respect for different traditions, and our d humanity.”

Mr Varadkar, arrived at the summit this afternoon, will say that the internet is a “wonderful thing” but that it cannot be allowed to be corrupted to spread hatred and fear and to promote terrorism, according to a Government spokesperson.

The meeting “is a signal of our commitment to working together to ensure the internet is not weaponised by the forces of hatred and extremism,” he is expected to say.

The Taoiseach will say the root causes and enablers of extremism are many, and as such “our responses must be multifaceted, strategic and long term.”

Mr Varadkar will also note that Ireland is the European base for many leading social media firms and online service providers.

“We are determined to ensure that the online environment is as free as possible of all illegal content and the real-time proliferation of criminal activity.”

The Paris gathering has been co-sponsored by French President Emmanuel Macron and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

It is being attended by leaders from across the globe as well as technology industry executives.

On a visit to the New Zealand capital Christchurch at the weekend, UN Secretary General António Guterres said hate speech was now spreading online like wildfire.

Leaders at the summit, from Canada to Senegal to Indonesia as well as executives from Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, will be asked to prevent extremist material from taking root online, to ensure it can be removed quickly, and to ensure that live-streaming a terror atrocity will not be possible.

Technology companies have been widely criticised for being too slow to remove hateful or atrocity-related content from their platforms.

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This morning, Facebook announced it is tightening access to live-streaming to prevent the rampant sharing of graphic video as took place with the Christchurch mosque attacks.

A ‘one-strike’ policy at Facebook Live will be applied to a broader range of offences, with those who violate serious policies suspended from using the feature after a single breach.

Facebook says technical innovation is needed to get ahead of the kind of media manipulation seen after the New Zealand attacks, such as users modifying videos in order to bypass filters.

On Friday, Facebook‘s Mark Zuckerberg said the internet should now face more public regulation.