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Govt must step up to police social media - InternetNZ boss

By RNZ
Tue 31 May 2022

A technology industry leader is urging the government not to shy away from policing social media platforms in New Zealand.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern met representatives from Twitter, Amazon and Microsoft in the United States over the weekend, where she discussed tech deals, climate change and the Christchurch Call to Action following the 2019 terror attacks.

In a Harvard University speech last Friday, Ardern called on social media companies to recognise their power and do more to combat violent extremism online by upholding their terms of service.

While Ardern also noted the role of governments and individuals, InternetNZ interim chief executive Andrew Cushen said explicit mention of government regulation was missing from her speech.

"I think it's a shame that the government - at least in the way it was expressed in the PM's speech - is shying away from seeming to want to do anything as a government itself around that," he said.

"I know that work is happening here and I'd love to hear more about how and when our government can step up to that, alongside the social media entities and alongside what we can do as individuals."

While good progress had been made over the last three years, Cushen said there should be greater transparency around social media algorithms that serve up an "ever-more extreme narrative of content that drives them deeper and deeper into some of the darker corners online".

The Department of Internal Affairs is reviewing the country's content regulatory arrangements to better protect New Zealanders from harmful or illegal material.

The European Union reached a deal last month with legislation to force big tech companies to do more to tackle illegal content or face huge fines.

As part of her trade mission to the US Ardern met Amazon Web Services chief executive Adam Selipsky to discuss the company's plans to spend $7.5 billion building data centres in Auckland.

She also met Microsoft president Brad Smith and signed a climate change deal with Californian governor Gavin Newsom in San Francisco.

The New Zealand Merino Company's wool platform ZQRX will work in partnership with Silicon Valley technology platform Actual, while company Parkable has signed a deal with Meta (formerly Facebook) to manage parking for its 60,000 employees.

Cushen said there was an unprecedented wave of investment by tech giants in New Zealand.

"Both Amazon and Microsoft have committed to build data centre infrastructure which propels New Zealand's technology and internet infrastructure to a whole new level," he said.

RNZ logo
This story was originally published on RNZ.co.nz and is republished with permission.
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