Open Letter: Members of the Christchurch Call Advisory Network ask EU governments to uphold the Call commitments in impending policy-making 

November 2, 2020

In the face of atrocious acts of violence, it is urgent that we continue to center the Christchurch Call’s critical tenet of “strengthening the resilience and inclusiveness of our societies” rather than turning to hasty measures that threaten human rights and a free and open Internet. That is why we, the undersigned, members of the Christchurch Call Advisory Network, call on the governments of the European Union, in particular the signatories to the Christchurch Call which include France, Germany and the European Commission, to uphold the commitments they made in the Call, as Europe moves to implement measures related to extremist and terrorist content. 

We recognize that acts of violence are taking place around the world, that they have a negative impact on human rights and society, and that they are often attributed to, or driven by, extremism and fanaticism. We condemn all violence and any action that uses the pretence of religion to justify violence. Such acts only result in further division and create schisms amongst governments around the world. The challenges are not to be underestimated. While responses to them are needed, we believe this is the time to ensure that governments do not turn the Internet into a tool for repression and control, as a way of responding to the abuse of technologies to harm people’s rights. 

To this end and with respect to the actions being proposed at a European level, we call on public officials to: 

  • Uphold the commitments made in the Christchurch Call to Eliminate Terrorist and Violent Extremist Content Online, particularly those related to the respect of human rights and the protection of a free, open, interoperable, and secure Internet. These commitments must be honored in any decision-making process regarding “terrorism and extremist content” online.
  • Ensure, in particular, that legal frameworks governing the removal of illegal content are based in human rights and the rule of law, and that determinations of illegality of content are made by an independent adjudicator.  
  • Work with companies and civil society to significantly enhance accountability and transparency in content moderation decisions made by tech platforms with regard to this issue. 
  • Meaningfully engage expert groups – including communities affected by decisions to moderate or not moderate content, Internet engineers and other members of the technical community, journalism and news media organizations, civil society organizations working on terrorism and violent extremism issues, human rights, and victims rights groups, among others – when proposing technology tools and policies to moderate content online. 
  • Conduct human rights impact assessments before implementing policies that risk having a disproportionate impact on the human rights of all people and particularly on those of minorities and disenfranchised groups. In particular, ensure that there is no aspect of collective punishment nor targeting of already vulnerable minority communities within a country, noting that an act of terrorism or violent extremism should not be used to increase an already high level of discrimination and othering of the wider community the perpetrator identifies with.
  • Conduct an Internet impact analysis before deploying technical tools that risk creating unintended consequences to the fundamental design of the Internet, including its ability to interoperate with other networks in an open, secure, and trustworthy manner. 
  • Remember the first commitment in the Christchurch Call, namely to “…counter the drivers of terrorism and violent extremism by strengthening the resilience and inclusiveness of our societies to enable them to resist terrorist and violent extremist ideologies, including through education, building media literacy to help counter distorted terrorist and violent extremist narratives, and the fight against inequality” (emphasis added).

Effective government action on this topic requires meaningful collaboration, participation, openness, and a non-discriminatory approach. From discourse to action. We call on the governments of Europe to lead by example. 

 

SIGNATORIES

Access Now; Alexa Koenig, Human Rights Center, UC Berkeley School of Law (signing in a personal capacity); Aliya Danzeisen, Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand (signing in a personal capacity) and on behalf of Women’s Organisation of the Waikato Muslim Association (signing in a personal capacity); Anjum Rahman, Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand (signing in a personal capacity) and Project Lead of the Inclusive Aotearoa Collective Tāhono, ARTICLE 19; Center for Democracy & Technology; Committee to Protect Journalists; Dangerous Speech Project; Dave Moskovitz, Wellington Abrahamic Council of Jews, Christians, and Muslims (signing in a personal capacity); Electronic Frontier Foundation; Ellen Strickland, Chief Advisor, Internet New Zealand (signing in a personal capacity); Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD); Jason Pielemeier, Policy Director, Global Network Initiative (signing in a personal capacity); Konstantinos Komaitis, senior Director, ISOC (signing in a personal capacity); Mnemonic (Syrian Archive); New America’s Open Technology Institute; Thomas Beagle, Chair of the NZ Council for Civil Liberties; WITNESS

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