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TERRORISM

France and New Zealand launch bid to end violent extremism online

New Zealand and France will bring together global leaders at a Paris summit next month aimed at stopping social media being used to organise and promote terrorism, the countries' leaders announced Wednesday.

France and New Zealand launch bid to end violent extremism online
Photo: Depositphotos
Political leaders and tech company executives have been called to a meeting — to be co-chaired by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French 
President Emmanuel Macron — in Paris on May 15.
   
They will be asked to commit to a pledge called the “Christchurch Call” designed to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.
 
Ardern said the March 15 terrorist attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, in which 50 Muslim worshippers were killed, saw social media used “in an unprecedented way as a tool to promote an act of terrorism and hate”. 
   
The mosque attacks were live-streamed on the internet and showed distressing footage of the gunman firing indiscriminately at men, women and children. 
 
Photo: AFP
 
In Paris, the Elysee presidential palace said the meeting would ensure that “new, concrete measures are taken so that what happened in Christchurch does not happen again”.
   
Nearly six weeks after the massacre, social media sites are still struggling to stamp out copies of the gunman's video.
   
“We're calling on the leaders of tech companies to join with us and help achieve our goal of eliminating violent extremism online at the Christchurch Summit in Paris,” Arden said. 
   
The meeting will be held alongside the “Tech for Humanity” meeting of G7 Digital Ministers, and France's separate “Tech for Good” summit also scheduled for May 15. 
   
“We all need to act, and that includes social media providers taking more responsibility for the content that is on their platforms, and taking action so that violent extremist content cannot be published and shared,” Ardern said. 
   
“It's critical that technology platforms like Facebook are not perverted as a tool for terrorism, and instead become part of a global solution to countering extremism.”
   
Macron has previously stated his ambition for France to take a leading role in devising new regulatory measures “to reconcile technology with the common good”.
   
Ardern said the joint action was not aimed at curbing freedom of expression but at preventing extremist violence from spreading online.
   
“I don't think anyone would argue that the terrorist on March 15 had a right to livestream the murder of 50 people and that is what this call is very specifically focussed on,” she said.
   
A French Muslim group said on Monday it was suing Facebook and YouTube for allowing the grisly live broadcast of Christchurch massacre to be streamed.
 
The livestream lasting 17 minutes was shared extensively on a variety of internet platforms and uploaded again nearly as fast as it could be taken down.
   
New Zealand has banned both the livestreamed footage of the attack and the manifesto written and released by Brenton Tarrant, who faces 50 murder charges 
and 39 of attempted murder following the mosque attacks.

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TERRORISM

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks

US Vice President Kamala Harris and French Prime Minister Jean Castex laid wreaths at a Paris cafe and France's national football stadium Saturday six years since deadly terror attacks that left 130 people dead.

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks
US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff lay flowers after ceremonies at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, at which 130 people were killed during the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/POOL/AFP

The attacks by three separate teams of Islamic State group jihadists on the night of November 13, 2015 were the worst in France since World War II.

Gunmen mowed down 129 people in front of cafes and at a concert hall in the capital, while a bus driver was killed after suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of the stadium in its suburbs.

Harris, wrapping up a four-day trip to France, placed a bouquet of white flowers in front of a plaque honouring the victims outside a Paris cafe.

Castex attended a minute of silence at the Stade de France football stadium, along with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, before laying wreaths at the sites of the other attacks inside Paris.

In front of the Bataclan concert hall, survivors and relatives of the victims listened to someone read out the names of each of the 90 people killed during a concert there six years ago.

Public commemorations of the tragedy were called off last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last year we weren’t allowed to come and we all found it really tough,” said Bruno Poncet, who made it out alive of the Bataclan.

But he said the start of a trial over the attacks in September meant that those attending the commemoration this year felt more united.

‘Overcome it all’

“We’ve really bonded thanks to the trial,” he said. “During previous commemorations, we’d spot each other from afar without really daring to speak to each other. We were really shy. But standing up in court has really changed everything.”

The marathon trial, the biggest in France’s modern legal history, is expected to last until May 2022.

Twenty defendants are facing sentences of up to life in prison, including the sole attacker who was not gunned down by police, Salah Abdeslam, a French-Moroccan national who was captured in Brussels. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia.

Poncet said he felt it was crucial that he attend the hearings. “I can’t possibly not. It’s our lives that are being discussed in that room, and it’s important to come to support the others and to try to overcome it all.”

Survivors have taken to the witness stand to recount the horror of the attacks, but also to describe life afterwards.

Several said they had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, grappling with survivor’s guilt, or even feeling alienated from the rest of society.

Saturday’s commemorations are to wrap up with a minute of silence at the Stade de France in the evening before the kick-off for a game between France and Kazakhstan.

It was during a football match between France and Germany that three suicide bombers blew themselves up in 2015.

Then-French president Francois Hollande was one of the 80,000 people in the crowd, before he was discreetly whisked away to avoid triggering mass panic.

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