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Combat the actual creeps

Dame Jacinda Ardern reportedly met with Prime Minister Christopher Luxon prior to Christmas to discuss her role as the NZ Government’s special envoy on Christchurch Call-related matters.

The Christchurch Call [CC], you’ll recall, was an initiative Ardern launched in the wake of the mosque terror attacks on March 15, 2019, that had the stated aim of combating the spread of terrorist activity and propaganda online by working with other governments, as well as social media companies, and was – initially at least – a direct response to the mosque killer live-streaming his atrocities on social media platforms.

Although Ardern declared she “no longer had enough left in the tank” when she stepped down as prime minister at the start of last year, she obviously had enough reserves to continue her CC crusade, because she successfully lobbied successor Chris Hipkins to appoint her as special envoy – a role she receives no remuneration for but that comes with a price tag of up to $500,000 a year for “actual and reasonable expenses” including a full-time employee, travel [both domestic and international], and security.

The gig was to be reviewed at the end of 2023, which was the point of the pow-wow with Luxon, who is reportedly “waiting for advice from officials” about whether to continue the role.

Based on recent reports, the new PM might like to put a pin in it, because while countering terrorist content online – including material that seeks to radicalise people to adopt terroristic creeds – is almost impossible to argue with, the CC project appears to be subject to some major mission creep.

As reported by ZB Plus editor Philip Crump, documents released under the Official Information Act indicate the CC has expanded its brief beyond countering terrorist content online to being “committed to looking specifically at gender-based [including anti-LGBTQIA+] violence/hatred as a feature of the radicalisation journey.”

Given how, on the avowedly ‘progressive’ end of the political spectrum, wondering whether it’s fair for trans women to compete against natal females in sport is decried as ‘hatred’ and many insist that ‘words are violence’, one might be tempted to conclude the CC has drifted into dangerously politicised waters, with the potential that those with a different view on such matters could, at best, be subject to onerous and unfair online censorship or, at worst, be labelled as potential terrorists. [There are already laws to deal with those who seek to incite actual violence.]

It’s certainly something that’s got the alarms blaring at the Free Speech Union, which has launched a petition to “reverse the ‘mission creep’” of the CC [you can access it at www.fsu.nz if that’s of interest].

In this writer’s view, what’s more worrying about this sudden interest in potentially seeking to censor or even criminalise views that were mainstream until very recently – and arguably still are – is what appears to be being ignored in favour of this new focus.

You may have noticed recent reports about how a number of major social media companies appear to be turning a blind eye to the way their platforms are being used to distribute child exploitation material and even enable child trafficking.

Ardern would do better to think of the children and turn her attention to fighting this blight if combatting terrorism isn’t taking up all of her time.

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