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The Trump Admin Won’t Join an Initiative to Curb Social Media Extremism, Citing Free Speech

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Crowds gather for a vigil in memory of the victims of the Christchurch mosque terror attacks on March 16th, 2019 in Auckland, New Zealand.

The United States is citing freedom of speech concerns as its justification for declining to join an international initiative to reign in extremist content on social media, but experts warn that the decision could just be “political one-upmanship.”

Spearheaded by New Zealand and France in the wake of a March terror attack on Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand, the “Christchurch Call to Action” details nine concrete steps that large tech companies can take to halt the spread of terrorist content within their platforms, including reviewing their algorithmic operations and providing greater transparency in setting community standards and terms of service.

French President Emmanuel Macron and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have thus far successfully lobbied 26 other nations to adopt the agreement, which encourages governments to work with online service providers in order to “address the issue of terrorist and violent extremist content online and to prevent the abuse of the internet.”

The White House has hedged on signing the agreement outright, instead offering its symbolic support of the document.

“While the United States is not currently in a position to join the endorsement, we continue to support the overall goals reflected in the call,” the Trump administration said in a statement last Wednesday. “We will continue to engage governments, industry and civil society to counter terrorist content on the internet.”

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