Time International - 02.03.2020

(Jacob Rumans) #1
Time March 2–9, 2020

of media outlets into following suit. The
attacker had live­streamed his actions
on Facebook. The video and an 87­page
white­nationalist “manifesto” were up
for hours and widely shared. But Ardern
resisted the temptation to push through
or call for regulations on tech companies.
“I was mindful that we were going to be
able to have a greater impact if we actu­
ally started some dialogue.”
The worried tech giants’ government
handlers put in pre­emptive calls explain­
ing what they were doing and asking if she
wanted to meet. Ardern let them flap in
the wind for a few weeks, she says, while
formulating a strategy. Sometimes it’s
handy to be world famous. She had dis­
cussions with such leaders as Germany’s
Angela Merkel and France’s Emmanuel
Macron, who had started looking at the
tech companies after the 2015 Paris at­
tacks, which included a mass shooting at
the Bataclan theater.
She also talked to Microsoft president
Brad Smith about what might be possi­
ble. “And yeah, I called and spoke directly
to [Facebook’s] Mark Zuckerberg, [You­
Tube’s] Susan Wojcicki, [Twitter’s] Jack
Dorsey, you know—I just called around,”
she says. “Some tech companies might
have questioned whether or not it was
relevant to them—we asked quite a wide
range of companies to be involved. But
there was no one who was adverse or op­
posed to the principles of what we were
trying to do.”
Exactly two months after the shooting,
the world at large got to see what Ardern,
Macron and their team had come up with:
the Christchurch Call, a meeting of heads
of state and tech companies in Paris to
commit to prevent the spreading of online
terrorist and violent extremist content. It
offers the famously competitive, secretive
and regulation­ averse tech companies an
avenue for working together and collab­
orating with governments to shut down
their information hoses if they start spew­
ing something toxic. The commitments
are voluntary, but Ardern noted that the
response to a shooting at a synagogue in
Halle, Germany, in October seemed to sug­
gest the protocols were starting to make a
difference. Twitch, the platform on which
that attack was live­ streamed, said the
footage had been viewed live by five peo­
ple and then seen by 2,200 others before
the company took it down. Similarly, the

attempted live­streaming of a gunman’s
attack in Thailand on Feb. 8 of this year
was shut down within four hours.
“The Christchurch Call was a step
change in how governments, industry,
and civil society collaborate,” said Nick
Pickles, head of global public­ policy strat­
egy at Twitter, in a statement that also
highlighted Ardern’s “willingness to con­
vene honest and sometimes difficult con­
versations” as a key factor in its success.
Ardern is also helping to oversee
the expansion of the scope and size of
a group that had already been set up
by some of the larger social­media net­
works to reckon with the influence of
ISIS online. The Global Internet Forum
to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT) will co­
ordinate between governments and the
networks to study, respond to and pre­
vent extremist and terrorist activity on
the sharing platforms. “I feel respon­
sible for that,” says Ardern. “That’s not
to say this started from zero, it did not.
The work that Jordan had done was re­
ally critical. And equally the likes of the
U.K. and France. But I do think that the

GIFCT will be a fundamentally different
body because of the Christchurch Call.”
New Zealand isn’t the first country
to have a mass shooting, or even a mass
shooting that goes viral. But Ardern was
the first to move enough chess pieces
among the public, governments and in­
dustry to offer the beginnings of a coher­
ent international response to a problem
against which traditional power struc­
tures have proved ineffective.

ardern was already a figure of global
interest, thanks to her age, gender and
baby, but her sure­footedness after a di­
saster of that magnitude really pushed
her into the spotlight. Though she claims,
possibly to reassure her constituents, to
be focused like a zoom lens on local is­
sues, she’s not opposed to using her in­
ternational following to bring some heat
to her policy priorities. She was the first
world leader to come to the U.N. General
Assembly with a baby, Neve, who both
stoked the media interest in her speech
and served as a nifty visual aid for her con­
tention that as far as the climate was con­
cerned, time was running out.
Her view of the current global politi­
cal climate is driven by her view of inclu­
sion. She believes the upsurge in popu­
lism and extremism is a reaction to the



Ardern’s partner Clarke Gayford holds
their daughter Neve as her mother
addresses the U.N. in September 2018



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