Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern plans to raise the issue of Facebook’s live-streaming facility directly with the tech giant’s leadership in the wake of the live-streamed killings of at least 50 Muslim worshippers in Christchurch.

The footage stayed on Facebook for over an hour, which was long enough for many others in extremist groups to clip and redistribute the footage far and wide, effectively turning the video into a viral phenomena that amplified the effect of the killings and has been impossible to scrub from the Internet.

New Zealand authorities called on mainstream media organisations and viewers not to redistribute or watch the footage, but the sheer fact of its unmoderated and live-streamed nature on the world’s most watched social media platform made it impossible to control after the fact.

“The New Zealand massacre was live-streamed on Facebook, announced on 8chan, reposted on YouTube, commentated about on Reddit, and mirrored around the world before the tech companies could even react,” Washington Post technology reporter Drew Harwell tweeted yesterday.

Politicians, academics and social media users have criticised the big technology platforms for not doing enough to clean up their news feeds, either after the fact of broadcasting or publishing the material or by moderating it before its distribution.

Ardern said the New Zealand authorities did as much as they could to remove some of the footage after the attack.

“Ultimately though it has been up to those platforms to facilitate their removal and support their removal. I think that there are further questions to be answered,” she said when asked if the companies needed to be regulated to stop the spread of the material.

“This is an issue that goes well beyond New Zealand, but it doesn’t mean we can’t play an active role in getting it resolved.”

Challenged directly on whether Facebook should allow unmoderated live-streaming, she said she would talk directly to Facebook about the issue.

“This is an issue I will look to be discussing directly with Facebook,” she said, adding she had already received a message from Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg.

“I haven’t spoken to her directly, but she has reached out with an acknowledgement of what has occurred here in New Zealand,” Ardern said, adding later the message included condolences.

A spokesman for Ardern said the message came in email form.

No word from Zuckerberg

Facebook founder and controlling shareholder Mark Zuckerberg has yet to make any public statement about the killings.

Two days after a live-streamed murder in the United States in April 2017, Zuckerberg gave his condolences to the murdered man’s family.

“We have a lot more to do here,” he told software developers after the murder of Robert Godwin in Cleveland.

“We have a lot of work, and we will keep doing all we can to prevent tragedies like this from happening,” he said then.

He also promised that Facebook would improve its filtering and handling of violent videos.

Ardern said she would not comment on Zuckerberg’s lack of comment.

“It is not for me to sit and make determinations of the way that others should be responding. It’s our job to make sure that in the long run we have a policy response that acknowledges exactly what has happened on our shores.”

Clark and Moutter do comment

Meanwhile, Former Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark also criticised Facebook.

“His [the killer’s] video live streaming his shootings remained on line for many hours, retweeted etc by many. Why can’t the algorithms identify that and act immediately?” Clark tweeted after criticising Facebook in an interview for the BBC.

Spark CEO SImon Moutter then responded.

“Helen Clark is 100 percent correct in asserting that if the global social media platform companies put as much effort into algorithms for preventing of the spread of hate material as they put into targeted advertising, they could easily solve the problem,” he wrote.

“But because they don’t, thought must be given to how to regulate. We all support free speech, but when that spills over into hate speech and propagation of violence, it has gone far too far. Such content is not tolerated on traditional media; why should it be on social media?”

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