Attempting to curb online terrorism, AI powerhouses including OpenAI and Anthropic have pledged to support the Christchurch Call to Action. Initiated by French President Emmanuel Macron and then New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, this initiative emerged in response to the tragic 2019 mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Growing threat of online terrorism
The commitment of these AI companies is crucial, as government and industry leaders acknowledge the inevitable risk of advanced AI technologies being exploited by terrorists and violent extremists. Recent events, such as the Hamas attacks on Israel since Oct. 7, have seen a “massive amount” of terrorist content spread online, raising alarms about the need for robust countermeasures.
Jacinda Ardern, in a discussion with Axios in Paris, emphasized AI’s potential role in mitigating terrorist activities. She highlighted the burgeoning safety tech industry, low-cost open-source solutions, and a partnership between Microsoft and Tech Against Terrorism to enhance Azure’s AI content safety service.
At a summit in Paris, OpenAI and Anthropic officially joined the Christchurch Call, alongside other tech entities like Discord and Vimeo. This comes after platforms faced criticism for inadequately controlling extremist content, especially following the live-streamed Christchurch attack on Facebook.
Effective crisis response protocols
A crisis response protocol developed by the Christchurch Call signatories played a key role in the comprehensive takedown of livestream footage from a 2022 mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket. Despite these efforts, Ardern notes recent shortcomings in appropriately deploying these protocols.
Tech Against Terrorism estimates around 5,000 AI-generated pieces of terror content are created weekly. One significant concern is the potential for AI tools to help terror groups evade automated content identification systems, raising the stakes for tech platforms in the fight against online extremism.
The Christchurch Call’s commitment
The original call to action focuses on implementing immediate measures to prevent the spread of extremist content, particularly through live-streaming. Ardern, reflecting on the Christchurch massacre, called for sustained effort and innovation in tackling online terrorism.
Ardern identifies herself as a “techno-pragmatist,” acknowledging the skepticism surrounding AI and social media. She advocates for AI companies to be proactive, acknowledging potential harms and working toward preemptive solutions, rather than after-the-fact retrofitting.
While AI offers faster and potentially more reliable options than human moderators in detecting extremist content, companies and governments participating in the Christchurch Call face minimal reporting requirements. This lack of oversight allows for reductions in content moderation, even as companies gain recognition for their involvement.
Inclusivity and global standards
The Call, while promoting a free, open, and secure internet, poses challenges for non-democratic governments and companies in such countries. Ardern suggests that these entities can still apply the Call’s standards without formally joining, ensuring broader adherence to its principles.