Congress Wants Briefing From Facebook and YouTube Over New Zealand Shooting Video

Police Investigating Christchurch Shootings in New Zealand - H Getty 2019
Dianne Manson/Getty Images

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) wrote sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella requesting a briefing from them about how the live-stream video of the New Zealand attack spread on their platforms.

The chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security is calling on the people who lead some of the world's largest technology companies to explain how the New Zealand shooter's live stream came to proliferate on their platforms. 

"The video was widely available on your platforms well after the attack, despite calls from New Zealand authorities to take these videos down," Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) wrote in a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in which he requested a briefing from them about how the video spread and what the companies will do to prevent the spread of future disturbing content. 

Thompson's letter comes days after 50 people were killed in a mass shooting at a mosque in Christchurch. The shooter live-streamed the attack on Facebook and soon it was streaming across the internet, despite efforts by the tech companies to remove the video and suspend the shooter's account. By Sunday, Facebook said it had removed close to 1.5 million videos of the attack. 

In his letter, Thompson noted the 2017 establishment of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism "in order to disrupt the use and exploitation of your platforms by terrorists." He added, "But just last week — nearly two years after you formed GIFCT — a terrorist exploited your platforms to disseminate across the world a horrific video of mass violence." 

A Facebook spokesman confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that the company "will brief the committee soon." A YouTube representative sent a statement that the company earlier issued acknowledging that since the attack, the company has removed tens of thousands of videos and terminated hundreds of accounts. Representatives for Microsoft and Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

"I must emphasize how critically important it is for you to prioritize the removal of this sort of sensitive, violent content," Thompson wrote. "Studies have shown that mass killings inspire copycats — and you must do everything within your power to ensure that the notoriety garnered by a viral video on your platforms does not inspire the next act of violence." 

He added, "If you are unwilling to do so, Congress must consider policies to ensure that terrorist content is not distributed on your platforms — including by studying the examples being set by other countries."