Twitter failed to detect upload of Christchurch terror clips

12/9/2022 7:39 PM

Twitter failed to pick up videos of the Christchurch mosque terror attack recently uploaded on its platform — and only removed them after the New Zealand government alerted the company.

The social media giant's automated reporting function did not flag the content as harmful, raising fears that recent layoffs since Elon Musk took over Twitter is hindering the policing of harmful content, especially from the far right.

The content was taken down after users and the New Zealand government raised the issue with the company over the weekend.

“Twitter advised us overnight that the clips have been taken down and said they would do a sweep for other instances," said the office of the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern.

The video clips were of the Australian white supremacist who live-streamed his murder of 51 worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch in 2019.

Following those attacks Arden launched the Christchurch Call, an initiative that calls on social media companies to counter online extremism, which Twitter's founder Jack Dorsey had supported.

Christchurch Call initiative

Ardern told media on Monday that her government had been told by Twitter that it has not changed its view on the Christchurch Call initiative.

“We will continue to maintain our expectation that [Twitter does] everything they can on a day-to-day basis to remove that content but also to reduce terrorist content and violent extremist content online, as they’ve committed to,” Ardern said.

Last week, Markus Luczak-Roesch, an Associate Professor in Information Systems at Victoria University of Wellington, wrote that the takeover by Musk could be problematic for the Christchurch Call initiative.  

He said that the entire team that the New Zealand government was planning to work with had been laid off.  

Since Musk officially took over last month, there has been a wave of layoffs, including that of thousands of content moderators, leading to a spike in misinformation accounts and hate speech.

Musk also said he would offer an 'amnesty' to previously banned accounts that had not broken the law, raising further fears over the proliferation of harmful content on the platform.  

But in a recent post to Twitter, Musk told his followers that hate speech was down from its pre-spike levels in October.

The Guardian reached out to Twitter for a comment on the story but did not get a response.