A white supremacist who opened fire and killed dozens of worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March appears to have been radicalized in part by hate-mongering websites like 8chan, and he posted his act of terror live on social media platforms. Such online extremism is on the rise around the world, and the White House has decided it is “not currently in a position” to help combat it.
The White House on Wednesday declined to sign an international call to fight online extremism that was inspired by the violent acts in Christchurch, The Washington Post reported. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron are set to publicly announce the “Christchurch call to action” later on Wednesday.
The documents, which have been signed by countries including Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, call on government and big tech companies to research and help reduce the spread of violent extremism. Facebook and Google are expected to announce their cooperation with the documents, according to the Post.
The New Zealand shooter streamed his horrific acts live on Facebook. It was taken down, but millions of people were able to watch the footage as it spread to other parts of the internet.
The White House suggested in a statement that its decision not to sign the call to action was a free speech issue. President Donald Trump has repeatedly and falsely complained that conservative voices are being silenced on social media platforms.
“We continue to be proactive in our efforts to counter terrorist content online while also continuing to respect freedom of expression and freedom of the press,” the White House said. “Further, we maintain that the best tool to defeat terrorist speech is productive speech, and thus we emphasize the importance of promoting credible, alternative narratives as the primary means by which we can defeat terrorist messaging.”
The White House said it stands “with the international community in condemning terrorist and violent extremist content online,” but that it is “not currently in a position to join the endorsement.”