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White House says it won’t sign international agreement to combat online extremism

The United States says it supports an international effort to find ways to stop social media from spreading hate — but won’t take part in it.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the White House praised the call to action in the name of Christchurch being spearheaded by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron.

“The United States stands with the international community in condemning terrorist and violent extremist content online in the strongest terms,” the White House said, but added that it is “not currently in a position to join the endorsement.”

That makes the U.S. an outlier. Allies including the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, Italy, India, Germany and Spain are all listed as signing on to the effort. Numerous technology giants are involved as well, including Amazon, Facebook, Google, Twitter and YouTube.

In its statement, the White House suggested that First Amendment concerns were stopping the Trump administration from joining in the agreement.

“We continue to be proactive in our efforts to counter terrorist content online while also continuing to respect freedom of expression and freedom of the press,” the statement said. The White House later tweeted that the administration is “fighting for free speech online,” and urged people who feel they’ve been censored because of “political bias” to share their stories on the White House’s website.

In an op-ed in The New York Times this past weekend, Ardern said the “Christchurch Call” would be a voluntary framework that “commits signatories to counter the drivers of terrorism and put in place specific measures to prevent the uploading of terrorist content.” Read more

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