New Zealand PM condemned for calling for regulating free speech as a ‘weapon of war’ at UN


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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has come under fire for comparing freedom of expression online to “weapons of war” in a recent speech at the UN that critics called “overbearing”.

At the United Nations General Assembly on Friday, Ardern announced a new initiative “to help improve research and understanding of how a person’s online experiences are organized by automated processes,” saying the The work, done in partnership with businesses and nonprofits, will be “important to better understanding online misinformation and disinformation – A challenge we face as leaders.”

The Prime Minister acknowledged that calling for online speech to be regulated in any way can seem problematic.

“As leaders, we are rightly concerned that even the lightest approaches to disinformation could be misinterpreted as hostile to the values ​​of free speech that we so cherish,” she noted. “But while I cannot tell you today what the answer to this challenge is, I can say with absolute certainty that we cannot ignore it. To do so poses an equal threat to the standards we all hold dear. value.”

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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks during a post-Cabinet press conference in Parliament in Wellington, New Zealand, Monday, October 4, 2021.
(Mark Mitchell/Pool Photo via AP)

Ardern then asked the audience how they could meet various challenges if people were allowed to share opposing narratives online.

“After all, how do you successfully end a war if people are led to believe that the reason for its existence is not only legal but noble? How do you tackle climate change if people don’t believe it exists? How do we ensure the human rights of others are upheld, when they are subjected to hateful and dangerous rhetoric and ideology?” she asked.

Ardern then suggested that online speech is a weapon often used by those with bad intentions.

“The weapons may be different, but the goals of those who perpetuate them are often the same. To cause chaos and reduce the ability of others to defend themselves. Dissolve communities. Reduce the collective strength of countries working together,” a- she asserted. .

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The Prime Minister called the assembled audience of UN leaders to action.

“But we have an opportunity here to ensure that these particular weapons of war do not become an integral part of warfare. In these times, I am acutely aware of how easy it is to feel discouraged. We face many battles on many fronts,” she said. “But there is reason to be optimistic. Because for every new weapon we face, there is a new tool to defeat it. Because every attempt to push the world into chaos is a collective belief to bring us back to order. We have the means; we just need the collective will.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gestures during her COVID-19 response and vaccine update in Wellington, New Zealand, Thursday August 26, 2021.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gestures during her COVID-19 response and vaccine update in Wellington, New Zealand, Thursday August 26, 2021.
(Mark Mitchell/Pool Photo via AP)

Footage of the New Zealand Prime Minister’s speech went viral on Wednesday, with many commentators condemning his remarks.

Freelance journalist and The Intercept co-founder Glenn Greenwald called out Ardern on Twitter.

“It’s the face of authoritarianism – even if it looks different from what you’ve been taught to expect. And it’s the mindset of tyrants everywhere,” Greenwald wrote. “She is someone so intoxicated with her sense of righteousness and superiority that she considers dissent too dangerous an evil to be permitted.”

Diesel Jack Media CEO and author Nick Palmisciano appeared to sarcastically muddle Ardern’s ideas.

“Yes, please call the government disinformation service. What could go wrong? It’s not like we ever see government officials misuse their power for their own ends” , he wrote.

RedState deputy editor Brandon Morse warned: “It is the authoritarians who admit your free speech is a threat to their rule.

American Greatness CEO Ned Ryun made a similar comment, “She’s an absolute boss. In fact, she’s evil.”

Author and journalist Glenn Greenwald speaks to the audience at the Brazilian Press Association in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil July 30, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Landau

Author and journalist Glenn Greenwald speaks to the audience at the Brazilian Press Association in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil July 30, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Landau

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Ardern has previously urged world leaders for mass censorship.

New Zealand under Ardern responded to a terrorist attack at a Christchurch mosque by declaring Christchurch’s call to action. The initiative, signed by many countries, demanded that big tech companies restrict extreme speech online in the name of preventing terrorism.

The Trump administration declined to sign the statement at the time.


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