Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wrapped up a whirlwind few days in Paris for the Christchurch Call summit, where an unprecedented agreement was signed by 17 countries, the European Commission and eight tech companies to seek to eliminate online terrorist and violent extremist content.

In between she held bilateral meetings with several world leaders, had interviews with CNN and Le Monde to turn up the international pressure, met intensely introverted Twitter boss Jack Dorsey (Dorsey asked media not to ask him any questions or report on anything he said), and had artichoke heart and lamb for lunch at the Elysee Palace with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Ardern speaks with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Singapore. Photo / Derek Cheng
Ardern speaks with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Singapore. Photo / Derek Cheng

Macron revelled in the media spotlight himself, greeting Ardern with la bise, or a kiss on each cheek, as a sign of familiarity. The previous year, he had greeted her with a handshake.

Ardern then flew to Singapore in time to sign an upgraded trade deal on her way home. The visit included a lunch with a New Zealand flavour - Canterbury lamb or grass-fed beef fillet, smoked salmon - in a lavishly adorned room with at least five chandeliers at the president's residence.

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The Herald sat down with the Prime Minister just before she flew back to New Zealand for her reflections on Paris, and what happens next.

Can you give a sense of the operation that made the Christchurch Call happen?

It was a significant undertaking, but what's really noteworthy is that no one new came in. It was existing people, and we just deployed them in a really strategic way; a staffer in Geneva with language skills, a team within MFAT (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade) forming organically, and the expertise within DPMC (Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet).

But that one informal get-together I had in Auckland was just the beginning of me forming a personal view of what the Call to Action should contain. It was a collective effort across departments, but also gleaning information from people who work in that space.

On her way back from signing the Christchurch Call to Action in Paris, Ardern spent the day signing an upgraded trade deal in Singapore. Photo / Derek Cheng
On her way back from signing the Christchurch Call to Action in Paris, Ardern spent the day signing an upgraded trade deal in Singapore. Photo / Derek Cheng

I did feel an enormous sense of pride in the people who made it happen. There were a lot of phone calls and follow-up phone calls, but there were a lot of people behind the scenes who worked really hard, and I felt really proud of them.

Do you want to single anyone out for their role?

Public servants don't like it when you do that, but I've certainly given them my thanks. I felt proud of the people who worked on it, but at the same time, every time I gave a speech the 51 members of the Muslim Community [who died] - that was why we were there. That real sense of responsibility, that's never gone away. That tempers any sense of accomplishment on behalf of New Zealand.

There was some talk about how social media can pull users into a rabbit hole or echo chamber. Have you had any personal experience with that?

Every time you're on social media you could end up in a rabbit hole. It's just whether that rabbit hole has disturbing or violent content attached to it.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern meets with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Photo / Derek Cheng
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern meets with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Photo / Derek Cheng

How important is that aspect of the text looking at whether the business models create those rabbit holes, and if they are harmful, essentially having an agreement for them to intervene and redirect users elsewhere?

The researchers and academics who work in this space for a long time have been clear - we don't need to know [the commercially- sensitive algorithmic] inner workings, but we do need a better understanding of what it's creating. The fact we have an acknowledgement here that this is something worth looking at, that is significant.

Was there an element of having to do something quickly because of the international admiration you had garnered since March 15?

That did not feature in my mind at all. What featured was that we needed to keep the pressure on, in particular, the tech companies.

How do we keep that pressure on?

By continuing to have expectations, and check in on those. The meeting Jordan in June, another process in Europe in July/August, and the UN general assembly meeting in September.

Would you like to see it on the agenda at the G20 [in June]?

I believe it will be on the G20 agenda as an issue. That's actually been a bit of a joint effort, and it's fair to say the G20 have been discussing this issue for a time.

You've said Paris was the focus before looking at New Zealand legislation. Now that it's been signed, do you expect change in New Zealand law?

Ardern during the welcome ceremony. Photo / AP
Ardern during the welcome ceremony. Photo / AP

Yes. Regardless of what we experienced, there are holes in our legislation, in part because it hasn't kept pace with technological change. Look at the way we managed the online video through the objectionable materials [legislation]. There was quite a lag before a decision was made on that.

And the safe harbour [provision response time in the Harmful Digital Communications Act] is 48 hours, which might be fine for an online complaint about a bullying statement but maybe not for terrorist content.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Ardern attend a meeting at the Elysee Palace. Photo / AP
French President Emmanuel Macron and Ardern attend a meeting at the Elysee Palace. Photo / AP

Yes, and we just now we have a new test for: is our legislation fit for purpose? It just wasn't the first thing we needed to do.

Did you have any down time in Paris at all?

When we arrived, I did at least go for a quick walk, and that 20 or 30 minutes of just getting some fresh air before everything started probably helped a lot. I did eat when I was there, but instead of just stopping to eat, there wasn't really any downtime. But that wasn't why we there.

I will admit to a little bit of jetlag, but I'm really pleased. Last night, I was thinking back to the first time I sat down and really said to anyone, 'I think we should try and do something like this.' We all just resolved that it would be really hard, but it was worth a try.

What will be the first thing you do when you get home?

It will be 8ish in the morning so I'll probably play with Neve for a while.