Facebook’s open letter to New Zealand – In the News

Facebook’s promise to crack down on hate speech and tighten regulations on livestreaming video following the Christchurch shootings has been met with some cynicism.

In the wake of March 15th’s terror attack, which was livestreamed on Facebook, public pressure mounted on the social media giant to take some responsibility for enabling the spread of harmful content.

In an open letter on Saturday, Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said: “we are taking three steps: strengthening the rules for using Facebook Live, taking further steps to address hate on our platforms, and supporting the New Zealand community”.

Chief Censor David Shanks said the moves were too little, too late.

“I don’t believe these issues will be resolved by leaving it up to global technology giants to make the changes that suit themselves,” he told Newshub.

In response to the changes, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told the NZ Herald, “the proof will be in the pudding”.

Facebook was “exploring restrictions on who can go Live,” and investing in better technology that could quickly identify edited versions of violent videos and images.

“In the past week, we have also made changes to our review process to help us improve our response time to videos like this in the future,” Sandberg said.

Facebook had pre-standing policies against hate groups and hate speech, but was now using AI to find and remove hate groups in Australia and New Zealand.

“And just this week we announced that we have strengthened our policies by banning praise, support and representation of white nationalism and separatism on Facebook and Instagram,” she wrote.

Facebook would work with the Government’s Royal Commission Inquiry and comply with future regulatory models on content moderation, elections, privacy and data portability, Sandberg said.

The letter, and its reaction, was widely covered by local media, including: 

Newshub: Christchurch terror attack: Facebook looking into restrictions on livestreaming
NZ Herald: Facebook to clamp down on hate in response to Christchurch mosque attack
TVNZ: Facebook and Instagram break their silence, reveal what they are doing about hate in wake of Christchurch attack
NZ Herald: ‘Proof will be in the pudding’: PM responds to Facebook announcement it is clamping down on hate
Stuff: Facebook to crack down on hate speech and livestreaming after Christchurch attacks 
Newshub: Facebook changes ‘too late’
RNZ: Netsafe cautious on Facebook’s promise of live-streaming changes