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Ten ways to tackle hate

A Helen Clark Foundation project to reduce online harm will be presented today in competition at the Paris Peace Forum. 'The Christchurch Principles' full report is available for download here.

The Forum is a prestigious international event, initiated by French President Macron on the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One. 65 Heads of States and Government attended the last Forum, as well as over 6000 visitors. It is a competition - on the third day of the Forum, 10 projects are selected as ‘Scale-Up’ projects to receive mentorship and support from the Paris Peace Forum for a one-year period.

The Christchurch Principles is the only Australasian initiative out of the 120 international projects chosen to be highlighted at the forum and that are now in the running for the resources and support to be scaled up.

Conceived in the wake of the atrocity on March 15, 2019, The Christchurch Principles is designed to sit alongside the Christchurch Call.

It articulates 10 key principles to foster democracy as well as combat the spread of violent, hateful, and harmful content on online platforms. It also explores how to turn the principles into coordinated and effective action.

The project is a collaboration between The Helen Clark Foundation, AUT’s The Policy Observatory, and The Workshop in Wellington. It builds on a report from The Helen Clark Foundation in May that recommended a statutory duty of care on social media platforms to fight the spread of harmful content on New Zealand social media networks.

Helen Clark Foundation Executive Director Kathy Errington says the Foundation is honoured to be given the chance to participate in such a prestigious event.

“It is timely and important for an independent New Zealand voice to be present when internet policy is debated internationally.

“The most serious incident of online harm in history happened in New Zealand less than a year ago, when many of us unintentionally glimpsed terrorist propaganda from the Christchurch atrocity.”

The Policy Observatory’s Dr David Hall says the principles are a framework for guiding the international response to how social media and other digital technologies have amplified harmful speech.

They are an opportunity to step back and reconsider the rights and responsibilities that govern social media, he says.

“The flourishing of online hate not only endangers people's rights, online and offline, it also threatens to degrade democratic institutions and practices.

“Social media has created opportunities to enrich the exercise of human rights and democratic practices. Yet it has also created risks that threaten to undermine its capacity to advance the public good.”

The Workshop’s Marianne Elliott says the clear set of principles can help the global community address structural problems while using social media to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing democracy, including inequity of access and declining engagement.

“Critically, they draw on human rights and democratic principles to ensure that our responses to hateful content don’t further undermine our democratic institutions,” she says.

“The history of digital media has shown that good intentions can cause more harm if they are not informed by the diverse experiences of users and the research evidence.”

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark says “I’m excited by the potential of the foundation to make a positive contribution to global debate on such an important issue.”


The Christchurch Principles

1. The principle of equal participation: A well-functioning democracy is one where people within a political community have the opportunity to participate as equals in public life. Where that is impeded, a correction or remedy is required.

2. The duty to protect: States have a duty to protect human rights from violations that occur on - and off - line. States also have a corresponding responsibility to protect democratic norms and practices.

3. The responsibility to respect: Businesses have responsibilities to respect the rights of persons. These responsibilities apply directly to businesses’ impact on people’s rights, but also extend to their capacity to influence the wider social, political and economic context.

4. The responsibility to remedy: There are obligations to remedy when a person’s rights have been violated, or a person is unable to exercise their rights, or the principle of equal participation is violated because democratic norms and practices have been degraded.

5. The principle of structural change: Interventions are necessary at the structural level to remedy the negative impacts of digital technologies; for example, through governance structures, regulation to restore transparency, accountability and fair competition and genuinely participatory and representative multi-stakeholder processes.

6. The duty of care: States have a duty of care toward the impacts of regulatory policies, and businesses have a duty of care toward the consequences of releasing their products.

7. The principle of democratic means: Democratic ends can only be sustained through democratic means, so it is incumbent upon states, businesses and civil society organisations to integrate democratic practices into their own structures. This involves inclusivity, transparency and reciprocity.

8. The principle of decentralisation: Power ought to be decentralised in the digital realm, as it is in the political realm, so that it is consistent with democratic outcomes.

9. The principle of inclusivity: Inclusivity of diverse voices is a key governance principle in any context, but it is especially important for new digital technologies where the marginalisation and disadvantaging of certain groups – online and offline – is at stake.

10. The principle of communicative action: Democracy requires more than freedom of expression; it requires effective communication which enjoys public trust by being sincere, honest, reliable, intelligible, relevant and competent.

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