Ex-New Zealand PM calls for tech firms to act on extremism in wake of attack

A former prime minister of New Zealand has called for tech companies to take action against online extremism in the wake of the Christchurch mass shooting.

Helen Clark, who left office in 2008, said it was “shocking” that extended footage being filmed by the alleged attacker was uploaded and widely circulated online.

The attack earlier this month left 50 people dead following shootings at two mosques.

No-one is yet convinced of social media's ability to regulate and police itself, the response has been so woeful

Ms Clark told the Press Association: “No-one is yet convinced of social media’s ability to regulate and police itself, the response has been so woeful.

“If that continues to be the case, it will invite regulation.”

Tech companies make “rather a lot of money and pay very little tax” and therefore have the resources to tackle extremism on their platforms, Ms Clark said.

She added: “Now that people are increasingly aware of fake news, disinformation, harbouring extremists, hopefully it makes people a bit more conscious of the potential of these platforms for harm.”

Like-minded countries need to work together to find a solution to extremists using social media platforms, she said, adding: “I think there’s concern.”

Social media companies allow extremists of all persuasions to “cluster together and communicate in a way that they never would have been able to before”, she said.

Ms Clark also said that court appearances of 28-year-old Brenton Tarrant, the Australian who is charged with murder for the March 15 attacks, should not become “a platform for his views”.

She added: “It’s going to come down to the court as to how they get the balance right of people needing to be informed about the trial, it’s not a secret trial, but it should not be a grandstand for him to broadcast.”

Ahead of the Duke of Cambridge’s visit to New Zealand to honour the victims of the attack next month, Ms Clark said “there was a lot of solidarity from around the world” in the wake of the killings.

She added: “I think New Zealand is probably the last place anyone expected it to happen, and it was a terrible event in its own right, irrespective of where it happened.”

New Zealanders rallied to support each other because they “didn’t want to show a New Zealand divided”, Ms Clark said.

- Press Association