Launched by Prime Minister Ardern, other world leaders and Big Tech (including Twitter) as a response to the Christchurch mosque attacks in 2019, which were live-streamed, the Christchurch Call seeks to censor “violent extremist content” presented to social media users.
Twitter founder Jack Dorsey lent support by meeting with Ardern, in Wellington, in September of 2019. Ardern, who has not met with Musk, says the Christchurch Call is in “unknown territory” as Musk’s take-over has cast Twitter’s role into question.
In late 2022, the Ardern Government reached out to Twitter to request having content removed that allegedly showed footage from the attack.
A spokesperson for Twitter said the content had not been flagged and has since been removed.
The company has since said they remain committed to the Christchurch Call. However, there are reports the team the NZ Government had been planning to work with on the initiative have since been laid off.
A national security briefing, as part of a review in response to the Christchurch attacks, warned of misinformation leading to radicalisation and violence. It drew a link between domestic misinformation around COVID-19, protests, and exposure to Russian propaganda. It asked for greater collaboration from social media platforms to detect and disrupt disinformation campaigns.
Musk takes over
Elon Musk completed his $44bn USD purchase of social media platform Twitter in October 2022. He promised to end censorship of conservative voices on the platform, saying free speech was a “societal imperative for a functioning democracy.”
Shortly after taking control, Musk fired three top executives: CEO Parag Agrawal, CFO Ned Segal, and head of censorship Vijaya Gadde. A week later Musk fired almost half of the 7,500 staff in rushed fashion and has since asked some of them to return.
Since the shake up, the platform’s membership numbers have jumped, while advertising revenue has fallen.