Social media sites, trolls face legal action over NZ terror video

A police officer stands guard outside Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand last week. Legal action against social media companies, Internet users and trolls is gathering pace over the online reaction to the video. (Reuters)
Updated 25 March 2019
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Social media sites, trolls face legal action over NZ terror video

  • French group sues Facebook and YouTube for allowing live-stream of mosque attack
  • Few hours after attack, footage could still be found on Facebook as well as YouTube

LONDON: Legal action against social media companies, Internet users and trolls is gathering pace over the online reaction to this month’s New Zealand mosque massacre, in which 50 people were killed. 

Brenton Tarrant, who has been charged with murder after the terrorist attack on two Christchurch mosques and who live-streamed the attack on social media, is set to appear in court on April 5 where he will face a host of additional charges. Social media companies, people who shared Tarrant’s violent video, and those who posted offensive comments online have all faced legal challenges following the terror attack. 

The French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), one of the main groups representing Muslims in France, said on Monday it was suing Facebook and YouTube, Reuters reported.

The group accused the social-media giants of inciting violence by allowing the streaming of footage of the New Zealand massacre on their platforms.

It alleged that the companies had disseminated material that encouraged terrorism, and harmed the dignity of human beings. 

A YouTube spokesperson said that it has “removed tens of thousands of videos and terminated hundreds of accounts created to promote or glorify the shooter” since the attack. 

“Our teams are continuing to work around the clock to prevent violent and graphic content from spreading, we know there is much more work to do,” they added. 

A Facebook representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment when contacted by Arab News. The service said earlier that in the first 24 hours after the shooting, it blocked more than 1.2 million attempts to upload the video and removed a further 300,000 copies that had been uploaded.

But a few hours after the attack, footage could still be found on Facebook as well as YouTube, and both platforms have faced widespead criticism over the footage. 

Abdallah Zekri, president of the CFCM’s Islamophobia monitoring unit, said the organization had launched a formal legal complaint against Facebook and YouTube in France, Reuters reported on Monday. 

The council said it was suing the French branches of the two tech giants for “broadcasting a message with violent content abetting terrorism, or of a nature likely to seriously violate human dignity and liable to be seen by a minor,” according to a copy of the complaint seen by AFP.

Such acts can be punished by three years’ imprisonment and a €75,000 ($85,000) fine under French law, it was reported.

Other action has also been taken against online trolls who made offensive comments about the terror video — as well as those sharing it. 

In the UK, seven people were arrested for hate crimes in the Greater Manchester area over the mosque shootings, with one man having called the gunman a “hero,” the BBC reported. The local police service said it had received 11 reports of offensive behavior related to the attack, with nine of them online.

New Zealand’s legal right of freedom of expression comes with tighter restrictions than in many other countries, meaning people could face legal action for seeking out and watching the video.

As of March 21, at least two people in New Zealand had been charged with sharing the 17-minute video on social media platforms under a law forbidding “possession or dissemination of material depicting extreme violence and terrorism.” More people could be charged for publicizing the attack under a human rights law which bans “incitement of racial disharmony.”

Philip Neville Arps appeared in court in Christchurch on Mar. 20 on two charges related to reposting the video, while an unnamed Christchurch teenager was also denied bail after arrest for posting a photograph of one of the mosques where the attack took place a week beforehand, with a caption that read: “Target acquired.”

Both face a maximum of 14 years in prison if they are found guilty, according to The New York Times. 

Even those commenting on the attack who are suspected of inciting racial disharmony can be charged. A woman from northern New Zealand was arrested for Facebook comments she made after the attack and if charged and convicted could face a fine of NZ$7,000 ($4,800).

New Zealand’s chief censor, David Shanks, acknowledged that many people may have viewed the Christchurch mosque video by accident. He warned that, while those who spread the video risked arrest and criminal charges, even possessing the video unintentionally was a crime.

“Every New Zealander should now be clear that this clip is an illegal, harmful and reprehensible record created to promote a terrorist cause,” Shanks said last week. 

“If you have a record of it, you must delete it. If you see it, you should report it. Possessing or distributing it is illegal, and only supports a criminal agenda,” he added.

The social media platforms hosting the video could also now face legal issues in New Zealand, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern having said that her country, with possible assistance from others, will investigate the role social media played in the attack.

“We cannot simply sit back and accept that these platforms just exist and that what is said on them is not the responsibility of the place where they are published,” she told New Zealand’s Parliament last week. “They are the publisher, not just the postman.”


Trump complained to Twitter CEO about lost followers -source

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey (L) and U.S. President Donald Trump. (REUTERS)
Updated 24 April 2019
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Trump complained to Twitter CEO about lost followers -source

  • Reuters reported in 2016 Trump had been angry with Twitter because it had rejected an advertising deal with his campaign

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump met with Twitter Inc’s Chief Executive Jack Dorsey on Tuesday and spent a significant time questioning him about why he has lost some Twitter followers, a person briefed on the matter said.
The meeting, which was organized by the White House last week, came hours after Trump again attacked the social media company over his claims it is biased against conservatives.
“Great meeting this afternoon at the @WhiteHouse with @Jack from @Twitter. Lots of subjects discussed regarding their platform, and the world of social media in general. Look forward to keeping an open dialogue!” Trump tweeted, posting a photo of Dorsey and others with him in the Oval Office.
Earlier on Tuesday, Trump suggested Twitter was biased against him without providing evidence. He wrote on Twitter that the company does not “treat me well as a Republican. Very discriminatory.”
Twitter said in a statement Dorsey had a “constructive meeting with the president of the United States today at the president’s invitation. They discussed Twitter’s commitment to protecting the health of the public conversation ahead of the 2020 US elections and efforts underway to respond to the opioid crisis.”
Unlike other major US tech company executives, Dorsey had not previously met with Trump.
He was not invited to a December 2016 meeting with president-elect Trump that featured other major tech companies. Reuters reported in 2016 Trump had been angry with Twitter because it had rejected an advertising deal with his campaign.
Trump has been upset about losing followers.
In October, Trump wrote that “Twitter has removed many people from my account and, more importantly, they have seemingly done something that makes it much harder to join — they have stifled growth to a point where it is obvious to all. A few weeks ago it was a Rocket Ship, now it is a Blimp! Total Bias?“
Any reduction is likely the result of Twitter’s recent moves to remove millions of suspicious accounts after it and other social media services were used in misinformation campaigns attempting to influence voters in the 2016 US presidential race and other elections, Reuters reported in October.
Shares in Twitter jumped 13 percent on Tuesday after it reported quarterly revenue above analyst estimates, which executives said was the result of weeding out spam and abusive posts and targeting ads better.
Trump lost 204,000, or 0.4 percent, of his 53.4 million followers in July when Twitter started its purge of suspicious accounts, according to social media data firm Keyhole.
Trump has one of the most-followed accounts on Twitter. But the president and Republicans in Congress have repeatedly criticized the company and its social media competitors for what they have called bias against conservatives, something Twitter denies.
Democratic US Senator Mazie Hirono said earlier this month “we cannot allow the Republican party to harass tech companies into weakening content moderation policies that already fail to remove hateful, dangerous and misleading content.”
Carlos Monje, Twitter’s public policy director, said at a Senate hearing earlier this month the site “does not use political viewpoints, perspectives or party affiliation to make any decisions, whether related to automatically ranking content on our service or how we develop or enforce our rules.”