The Christchurch Call: insecurity, democracy and digital media - can it really counter online hate and extremism?

  • William James Hoverd, Leon Salter, Kevin Veale
  • November 2020, Springer Science + Business Media
  • DOI: 10.1007/s43545-020-00008-2

Examining the response to the 2019 Christchurch terrorist attack from three different perspectives

What is it about?

In 2019, a white-supremacist terrorist attacked a Mosque and Islamic centre in Christchurch, Aotearoa/New Zealand, and live-streamed their massacre online. The "Christchurch Call to Action Summit" (the Call) was a response to the event from a coalition of global governments and online service providers. This article explores the Call from three different perspectives: a national security perspective with a focus on online intelligence gathering and regulation; a digital media focus with emphasis on online harm and harassment; and a perspective grounded in studying liberal democracy. Our contrasting angles on the subject highlight the Call's successes and limitations, including areas that undermine its stated aims.

Why is it important?

The interplay between online culture and terrorism is a vital area of exploration, and the ways that both governments and massive internet companies influence the landscape is vitally important to understand. Beyond that, given that governments and massive corporations are already responding to terrorist violence through mechanisms like the Call, it's vital to understand whether its stated goals are achievable, desirable, or even internally consistent. As it is, our analysis reveals that the Call is currently most likely to shield social media platforms and other key players from their existing responsibilities in preventing insecurity and violence on and offline.


Dr Kevin Veale
Massey University

I have two levels of perspective on this project: one about its overall contribution, and one about the role my specific element within the project plays. The ability to look at a topical event which is still playing out - the attempt to put together a global response to the role the internet plays in security and terrorism around the world - from different disciplinary perspectives and angles is hugely important. Given that the Call happened in 2019, this piece is a timely response and attempt to prompt discussion and debate around its contributions, successes, tensions and dangers. My specific contribution is to argue that the international, multi-level collective action that the Call represents provides a great model by which useful positive changes could be made in future. However, currently it misunderstands how the dynamics of hate-groups work online in ways that will limit its ability to respond to problems in future. If people are interested in related ideas, I wrote a book about how online harassment and hate functions like malevolent Alternate Reality Games, and summarised its ideas here:

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The following have contributed to this page: Dr Kevin Veale