Trump Administration Just Gave the Worst Reason for Refusing to Join New Zealand's Efforts to Stop Terrorists from Spreading Content Online

Mark Wilson/Getty Images // Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

The Trump administration's tacit acceptance of violent rhetoric has reached a new low: they're declining to join New Zealand and France in a commitment to fight online terrorism.

The Christchurch Call for Action, named after the March 15 mass shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, encourages tech companies to work together to step up their efforts to keep terrorism off social media. The Christchurch massacre was livestreamed on Facebook, and viewed and reposted by millions before Facebook was able to block it.


"When it came to the way this attack was specifically designed to be broadcast and to go viral, (responding) to that needed a global solution, so that was why we immediately got in contact with international counterparts," said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in an interview with CNN.

Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron announced the Christchurch Call for Action at a meeting of digital leaders for the G7 nations. The agreement is focused on terrorism and violent extremism on social media. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has given "Facebook's support to this call to action."

But Trump officials have said the US is "not currently in a position to join the endorsement," citing concerns about freedom of speech.

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"We encourage technology companies to enforce their terms of service and community standards that forbid the use of their platforms for terrorist purposes," the official White House statement read, adding "We maintain that the best tool to defeat terrorist speech is productive speech, and thus we emphasize the importance of promoting credible, alternative narratives as the primary means by which we can defeat terrorist messaging."
Productive speech, such as the manifesto of the Christchurch shooter, in which  Trump was cited "as a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose" and an inspiration for the massacre of 51 people - the impetus for the Christchurch Call for Action.

The Trump administration has derided Facebook and Twitter for cracking down on extremism and misinformation - although many people believe the social media platforms haven't done enough.

This isn't the first time the Trump administration has cited "freedom of speech" to protect violent extremist rhetoric. Trump refused to speak out against Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, saying there were "very fine people, on both sides."

With leaders from countries such as Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom expected to sign on to the call to action, the US looks pretty bad in comparison.

Shannon Finney/Getty Images

Across the country, states have instituted stay-at-home orders in an effort to curb the spread of the highly contagious virus that's upended daily life in the United States.

Late last month, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers issued one of these orders, urging his constituents to only leave their houses for necessary errands, such as getting groceries or filling prescriptions.

There's just one problem: Wisconsin's elections are scheduled for April 7. In addition to the Presidential primaries, Wisconsinites will vote for judicial positions, school board seats, and thousands of other offices.

The Democratic and Republican National Committees took the case to the Supreme Court, with Democrats arguing that the deadline for mailing absentee ballots should be extended by a week, to April 13, in order to facilitate voting from home.

With a Wisconsin Supreme Court Seat up for grabs on Tuesday, Republicans predictably made the case for why as few people as possible should be permitted to vote. It was a continuation of Wisconsin GOP efforts to suppress the vote, which included rejecting a demand from Governor Evers to automatically mail an absentee ballot to every resident.

The Republican majority in United States Supreme Court sided with the RNC and the election in Wisconsin will carry on as scheduled. This is despite Wisconsin being unprepared for the surge in absentee ballot requests, which leapt from a typical 250,000 to over 1.2 million in reaction to the virus. Thousands of these voters won't even receive these ballots until after the election, thereby preventing them from exercising their right to vote.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a blistering dissent to the majority's decision, saying:

"Either [voters] will have to brave the polls, endangering their own and others' safety. Or they will lose their right to vote, through no fault of their own. That is a matter of utmost importance — to the constitutional rights of Wisconsin's citizens, the integrity of the State's election process, and in this most extraordinary time, the health of the Nation."

She was flabbergasted that her more conservative colleagues didn't think a global pandemic and national crisis was enough to justify emergency policies ensuring Wisconsinites their right to vote:

"The Court's suggestion that the current situation is not 'substantially different' from 'an ordinary
election' boggles the mind...Now, under this Court's order, tens of thousands of absentee voters, unlikely to receive their ballots in time to cast them, will be left quite literally without a vote."

A majority of the Supreme Court may not have agreed with Ginsburg, but the court of public opinion was fully on her side.





The Republican efforts indicated to some that the party cares more about maintaining control than preserving lives.




Large crowds are already gathering in Wisconsin to vote.

In a bit of devastating irony, the Supreme Court voted remotely when making its decision.

For more information about the tried and true tactic of GOP voter suppression, check out Uncounted, available here.

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