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‘Christchurch Call’: Biden backs New Zealand stand against online extremism

The United States will join an international bid to stamp out violent extremism online, the White House has said, two years after the Trump administration declined to do so.

The Biden administration spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Washington “will join the Christchurch Call to Action” in “a global pledge by member governments and technology partners to work together to address terrorist and violent extremist content online”.

The initiative is named after the New Zealand city where a far-right gunman massacred 51 people at two mosques in 2019 while broadcasting his rampage live on Facebook.

“Countering the use of the internet by terrorists and violent extremists to radicalise and recruit is a significant priority for the United States,” Psaki said.

In 2019 the United States cited protecting free speech when it declined to join the call led by the New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, though Washington stressed that it did back the initiative’s aims.

Psaki said free speech remained a concern.

“The United States applauds language in the Christchurch Call emphasising the importance of respecting human rights and the rule of law, including the protection of freedom of expression,” her statement said.

“In joining the Christchurch Call, the United States will not take steps that would violate the freedoms of speech and association protected by the first amendment to the US constitution, nor violate reasonable expectations of privacy.”

She said the US will participate in a virtual summit on 14 May.

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