Social media giant Twitter has been slammed at a counter-terrorism conference today for failing to ban New Zealand's largest neo-Nazi group from recruiting on its online platform.
The far-right group, which the Herald has chosen not to name, has more than 650 followers on Twitter, as of this morning.
Angry delegates at the second day of New Zealand's first annual hui on countering terrorism and violent extremism, He Whenua Taurikura, which has attracted global experts, spy chiefs, and tech players, questioned why Twitter had failed to ban the group from spreading its message online, especially when Facebook has already acted.
When Twitter's representative Nick Pickles, dialling in from San Francisco, replied to say if someone could pass it the account's handle, then it would review it today, his response was met with boos and more questions.
"If the Christchurch Call meant something to you, then take them offline," said Valerie Morse of the Foundation Against Islamophobia and Racism.
Pickles said the group looks like they were breaking Twitter's rules and it would be reviewed immediately.
Facebook and Twitter have had representatives speaking on a panel this morning, alongside Anjum Rahman of the Islamic Women's Council of New Zealand, academics, and Jordan Carter of InternetNZ, looking at the rising issues of violent extremism online.
The historic counter-terrorism event comes after recommendations in the Royal Commission of Inquiry report into the March 15, 2019 terrorist attack on two Christchurch mosques.
The terrorist livestreamed his attack on Facebook and shared his ideology on other online platforms.
The Christchurch Call to Action, launched after the shootings where 51 Muslims were murdered, was launched to try to get governments and tech companies to work together to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.
Rahman opened her talk with a slide showing an image of the entranceway to Al Noor Mosque taken by the headcam of the terrorist before he stormed the building and opened fire.
She said although the killer's livestream was banned in New Zealand, it remained online overseas for several days.
The conference has already heard that it can still be found online – even though Facebook removed 1.5 million copies online in the first 24 hours.
Rahman believes there needs to be a statutory, independent body which deals with takedowns of such material – not left just to tech companies, or governments.
She also called for more algorithmic audits to moderate content automatically.
Dr Nawab Osman of Facebook said conspiracy theory networks have accelerated since the global Covid-19 pandemic.
Many extremists are moving away from larger platforms like Facebook to smaller platforms – partly due to content removal and control - but he says mainly because their policies have been successful at rooting out bad content on their platform.
More than 99.6 per cent of terrorism content has been found to have been proactively removed through human removal and algorithms before any form of reporting, Osman told the hui.
The monitoring of violent extremism requires partnership with "multiple actors", as seen in the Christchurch Call, especially community groups, he said.
Pickles said Twitter has also seen extremists moving to smaller platforms and backed an "ecosystem approach" to cracking down on it.
But Carter said while small platforms need to be monitored, communities can't ignore the "elephants in the room" - the big platforms where the "big journeys towards extremism" often happens.
One delegate slammed the Twitter and Facebook representatives for "pat speeches" which made them sound like arms companies or cigarette firms and told them to "buck up their ideas" or else legislators in free democracies would come and regulate them and "sort them out".
Yesterday, New Zealand's top spy boss warned there is a "realistic possibility" that the Christchurch mosque shooter's terrorist actions could inspire another white identity extremist attack.
Rebecca Kitteridge, director general of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS), spoke as part of a panel examining the "dynamic nature of the terrorism and violent extremism risk".
She said if there is a terror attack committed in New Zealand over the next 12 months, the NZSIS believes it will most likely come from an extremist lone actor who has gone under the radar, not coming to the attention of police or spy agencies, and not giving any forewarning.
It would most likely be carried out using knives, vehicles, or some type of firearms, Kitteridge said.
Two other potential mass shootings were also foiled around the time of the Christchurch mosque attacks, the hui heard yesterday.
Cameron Bayly, New Zealand Police's chief counter-terrorism advisor, said the country came very close to having multiple potential mass shooting incidents" - with one plot uncovered just before March 15 and another a fortnight later.
Police were alerted through reports of firearms from concerned members of the public, with one individual having vowed to carry out a school shooting.
Historian Dr John Battersby of Massey University's Centre for Defence and Security Studies warned that the next terror attack was a matter of "when rather than if" and that New Zealand needs to be mindful that the last terror attack may not help prevent the next one.
The March 15 attacks were a "watershed moment in New Zealand" and have increased the risk of extremist activity, University of Auckland's Dr Chris Wilson said.