The Trump administration said on Wednesday that it would not sign an international accord intended to pressure the largest internet platforms to eradicate violent and extremist content, highlighting a broader divide between the United States and other countries over government’s role in determining what content is acceptable online.
Citing free speech protections, the administration said in a statement that “the United States is not currently in a position to join the endorsement.” It added that “the best tool to defeat terrorist speech is productive speech.”
The statement coincided with President Emmanuel Macron of France and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand meeting in Paris to sign what they have labeled the Christchurch Call. The agreement was crafted after a terrorist attack on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March that left 51 Muslim worshipers dead. The massacre was live streamed on Facebook, and spread virally over the internet.
Ms. Ardern has used the Christchurch killings to rally support for increased vigilance toward keeping violent and extremist content off the world’s largest internet platforms. Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft and Amazon have vowed to monitor their services more aggressively for material that encourages and facilitates violence.
Yet the debate about regulating the internet is raising broader questions about what constitutes acceptable free expression online. Companies and governments have largely coalesced around addressing violent, terrorist-related and child-exploitation content online, but there is less consensus on issues like what qualifies as hate speech and misinformation, and what forms of political rhetoric are tolerable even if they are offensive and polarizing. [Continue reading…]