EFF has joined the advisory committee of the Christchurch Call to Eliminate Terrorist and Violent Extremist Content Online and will be represented at meetings near the United Nations General Assembly early next week. We have been involved in the process since May, when the government of New Zealand convened more than forty civil society actors in Paris for an honest discussion of the Call’s goals and drawbacks.
We are grateful to New Zealand’s government for working toward greater inclusion of civil society in the conversation around what to do about violent extremism. But, we remain concerned that some of the governments and corporations involved seek to rid the internet of terrorist content regardless of the human cost. As demonstrated by a paper we released this summer, in conjunction with Witness and Syrian Archive demonstrates, that cost is very real.
At the moment, companies are scrambling to respond to demands to remove extremist content from their platforms. In doing so, however, they risk removing other expression. That includes videos that might be used as evidence in war crimes tribunals; speech from opposition groups that share key identifiers with US-designated terrorist organizations; and, in some cases, benign imagery that happens to contain a banned symbol in the background. While companies have the right to remove extremist content, they must be transparent about their rules and what they remove, and offer users an opportunity to appeal decisions.
Our involvement in the Christchurch Call advisory committee is just one of several ways in which we’re engaged with this topic. We have also been observing the deliberations in the EU over the so-called terrorism regulation, and are watching the debate closely in the US as well. We will also continue our research into the impact of extremist speech regulations on human rights.