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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during the Christchurch Call international leaders' summitin Wellington, New Zealand, on Saturday. Photo: Mark Tantrum/Getty Images

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Saturday called on Big Tech to focus on the "ethical use of algorithms" to prevent social media users from becoming radicalized into extremist behavior.

Why it matters: Last year's official inquiry into New Zealand's deadliest modern mass shooting at two Christchurch mosques in March 2019 found the terrorist had become radicalized while viewing white supremacist content on YouTube and other online sources.

  • Algorithms, formulas for computer-based decision making, are responsible for what we get shown on social media, and lawmakers and regulators in the U.S. and around the world are taking up issues related to algorithms and machine learning.

The big picture: Ardern made the comments during a meeting convened jointly by New Zealand and France of political leaders including Secretary of State Tony Blinken and leading tech executives to discuss efforts to address terrorism and violent extremist content online, as part of the Christchurch Call.

What they're saying: The New Zealand prime minister said "probably the biggest focus" for the group over the next year would be the issue of social media users potentially being exposed to further extremist content through recommendations.

  • "Let's have that conversation around the ethical use of algorithms, and how they can be used in a positive way and for positive interventions," Ardern said.
  • "When we look at the environment in which the terrorist for March 15 was radicalized, even in that period in those two years there has been significant change by many of the platforms. Algorithms are where many of us are looking to."
  • YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, who took part in the Christchurch Call meeting. tweeted that the company looked forward to continuing to work with the group "to prevent terrorism and violent extremism."
A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Aug 23, 2021 - Technology

YouTube says content policing is good for business

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photos: Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch, Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

While critics allege YouTube puts profits over public safety, product head Neal Mohan insists that the Google-owned video site is working to be a better content moderator, in part because it is good for business.

Why it matters: Users spend billions of hours watching videos on YouTube, and the site's content recommendations shape how that time is spent. Facebook and Twitter tend to get more attention on content moderation, but YouTube remains an equally important information battleground.

11 mins ago - Health

Transplants rebound from COVID lull

Expand chart
Data: United Network for Organ Sharing; Chart: Baidi Wang/Axios

More than 41,000 Americans underwent an organ transplant in 2021, a new record and a 6% increase from 2020, when the pandemic caused a slight slowdown of the life-saving procedures.

Why it matters: There are more transplant patients than ever, and they are particularly vulnerable to the worst effects of COVID because of their compromised immune systems — although vaccines provide important protection.

11 mins ago - World

Senators make bipartisan trip to Ukraine after divisive Russia vote

Ukrainian President Zelensky. Photo: John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

A bipartisan group of seven U.S. senators met Monday in Kyiv with President Volodymyr Zelensky and other top officials as Ukraine and the West brace for the possibility of an imminent Russian invasion.

Why it matters: The delegation is seeking to project a united front with Ukraine, following a divisive Senate vote on Thursday in which Democrats blocked sanctions Zelensky's government was seeking against the Russia-to-Germany Nord Stream 2 pipeline.