technology

Share-no-evil monkey tackles gunman’s media plan

A browser extension has been launched which replaces the accused Christchurch gunman’s name with the words “Share No Evil”.

It’s part of the reaction to the role social media played in the spread of material the accused gunman shared before and during the attack.

The extension’s promotional website says: “If terrorism is mass murder with a media strategy, then now is our moment in history to start taking control.”

Based on the see-no-evil, speak-no-evil and hear-no-evil monkeys, the idea is a fourth – share-no-evil – monkey joins the ranks.

The extension was created by advertising agency Colenso BBDO with the support of Spark.

Spark’s brand lead Sarah Williams said she hopes the message the extension promotes starts a movement.

“It’s to make New Zealand aware we all have the power to share something or not share something.”

As well as helping the public realise they can play a role in helping stop the spread of the content part of a terrorist attack, she hopes it also inspires those in the technology sector see they could play a role in stopping the spread of anything similar in the future.

She called it a “small step” rather than a “catch-all solution”. Currently photographs of the accused gunman’s face, and mention of the name of the manifesto he shared to the internet are not affected by the extension and are still visible.

The replacement of the name will only happen for those who download and install the extension.

Following the shootings, large providers blocked access to sites such as 8chan where the video was being shared.

Williams said she couldn’t comment on whether there were discussions about blocking large social media platforms where the content was live-streamed from and then uploaded to.

Four days after the mosque shooting, the CEOs of Vodafone, Spark and 2degrees sent an open letter to the CEOs of Facebook, Google and Twitter.

In the letter the New Zealand companies said they had taken the “extraordinary step” to suspend access to the sites, such as 8chan, hosting the content. They described this as not ideal:

“Internet service providers are the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, with blunt tools involving blocking the sites after the fact.”

They called on the content-sharing platforms to have a duty of care to users and asked them to “join us at the table and be part of the solution”.

Williams said there are a lot of people behind the request for the publishing giants to come to the table.

“I honestly think that requests have to keep on being made. I know there are a lot of people behind it from the marketing and advertising industry who are also using their collective voice to try and get this conversation going.”

She said conversations are going on, and meetings were going to be held “but I don’t think to the extent we would like it to be”.

With the extension enabled, the accused gunman's name is replaced. Image: Screenshot

Vodafone and 2degrees have also said they support the share-no-evil browser extension.

Vodafone spokesperson Richard Llewellyn said the Share No Evil campaign was led by Colenso BBDO and Spark but Vodafone was happy to “climb on board” because it supports and believes in the message of the extension.

“Crisis brings people together. We've seen that in so many different ways across New Zealand over the last week and a bit. It also brings competitors together in a common cause."

He said even as early as Friday afternoon when the call was made to block sites the companies knew it was an extreme measure and some legitimate internet users would be inconvenienced.

“We apologise for that. But as an industry we agreed it was the right thing to do.”

The internet blocks are slowly being lifted. 

Llewellyn said initiatives like this, which are aimed at users, were at the other end of the spectrum to things like the open letter, which called on the social media giants to take more responsibility for their content.

He said the industry, government and community needed to come together to discuss how issues of online content are dealt with.

“We know the larger platforms have considerable resources and considerable expertise with regards to AI and algorithms to predict behaviours and identify copyrighted behaviour.”

The Australian Financial Review reported the Australian Prime Minister was set to meet with Google, Twitter and Facebook executives on Tuesday in Brisbane.

Tough new laws are already being drafted in Australia to control the “weaponising” of social media. Under the laws it will become a criminal offence if terrorists' material is not removed as soon as it is reported.

If not removed quickly, the executives of the tech giants could face jail time.

In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has also hinted a tougher stance should be considered.

“We cannot simply sit back and accept that these platforms just exist and that what is said on them is not the responsibility of the place where they are published. They are the publisher not just the postman. They cannot have the profits without the responsibility.”

Technology commentator Paul Brislen said he would like to see a raft of regulatory changes.

While he understands why the internet service providers chose to block certain sites during the emergency he doesn’t see it as their role to “police the internet”.

“I wouldn’t want it to be a regular thing. I don’t want my telco deciding what I can look at, what I can hear.”

He sees the extension as “a small step but quite a useful one”.

“It's part of the journey I guess to try and stop fascists and right-wing hate groups from being normalised. There's a lot of evidence around about the psychology of naming people or showing the video footage over and over again. It reinforces their world view and reinforces the appeal of what they've done to other people.”

Read more: 

ISP keeps Chch web blocks after Govt intervention

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