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WATCH: Authoritarian New Zealand prime minister demands that world leaders censor online speech and other 'weapons of war'

Jacinda Ardern noted that leaders are “rightly concerned that even the most light touch approaches to disinformation could be misinterpreted as being hostile to the values of free speech that we value so highly,” but nonetheless argued that “we cannot ignore it.”

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Jarryd Jaeger Vancouver, BC
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On September 23, New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern delivered a speech to the United Nations general debate, wherein she addressed the causes, tactics, and impacts of war around the globe.

While discussing the real-world impacts of people’s online presence, Ardern called on world leaders to crack down on “disinformation” and other “weapons of war.”



“This week we launched an initiative alongside companies and nonprofits,” Ardern began, “to help improve research in understanding of how a person’s online experiences are curated by automated processes.”

She noted that one of the goals was to figure out how to rid the internet of disinformation and misinformation.

Ardern noted that leaders are “rightly concerned that even the most light touch approaches to disinformation could be misinterpreted as being hostile to the values of free speech that we value so highly,” but nonetheless argued that “we cannot ignore it.”

She argued that the impact of letting disinformation spread freely would be just as detrimental to society as the stifling of free speech necessary to quell the phenomenon.

“How do you end a war if people are led to believe that the reason for its existence is not only legal, but noble,” Ardern continued. “How do you tackle climate change if people do not believe it exists? How do you ensure the human rights of others are upheld when they are subjected to hateful and dangerous rhetoric and ideology?”

She went on to point out that disinformation has been used for nefarious purposes, suggesting that the ability to speak freely online was just one of many “weapons of war.”

Ardern, who locked down New Zealand with regulations, police, and barricades, has long been vocal in her desire to see more regulations and oversight placed on the internet.
 
In 2019, fifty-one people were killed after a white suremacist terrorist opened fire on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, livestreaming his actions on Facebook.
 
Ardern responded to the horrific incident by promoting the “Christchurch Call,” an invitation for tech companies and international governments to work together to ensure extremist content does not end up online.
 
“We must maintain a free, and open, and accessible internet,” she said. “That has to be protected … Social media companies, these platforms, they’re global, and so the response needs to be global."

"If we truly want to prevent the proliferation of this kind of content, we need tech companies on board, and we need technological solutions to prevent the proliferation in the first place.”
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