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Speech by President von der Leyen on the occasion of the Christchurch Call Second Anniversary Summit

Speech given recently (14 May 2021) by President von der Leyen on the occasion of the Christchurch Call Second Anniversary Summit.

"Check against delivery"

Dear Prime Minister Ardern,

Dear President Macron,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

the attack during the Friday Prayer on 15 March 2019 will always remain a terrible scar in the history of New Zealand. It gave rise to worldwide shock. Not only the attack itself. But also the way live images spread on the Internet. The online space of freedom and connection was, all of a sudden, cynically used to spread hate.

The attack in Christchurch reminded us of the harmful role the Internet can play. Online terrorist content can motivate new attacks, radicalise people, and disseminate dangerous technical know-how. It should have no place on the Internet.

As the President of the European Commission, I feel my responsibility in stopping terrorist and violent extremist content from spreading.

But even an organisation as determined as the European Union cannot address this issue alone. This is why I value so much our meeting today. It brings together all those who are part of the solution:

Governments, tech companies, civil societies.

We need cooperation, 24/7 communication channels, and crisis protocols. And we also need solid safeguards to protect freedom of speech. Because once we sacrifice our freedom in the fight against terror, terrorists will have achieved their ultimate goal.

With the Christchurch Call for Action, we've improved our collaboration and our response. We are all working together under the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism. And we now have an EU Crisis Protocol, allowing us to respond immediately and together in an emergency, in order to stop new terrorist content from spreading. Sadly enough, we had to activate it after the murder of Samuel Paty in France.

Voluntary cooperation brings results. It needs to continue. But alone this is not always enough. Governments also have a responsibility to create failsafe tools that address the most harmful content immediately. This is why, in the EU, we've decided to go further.

With our Digital Services Act we make clear that online platforms must take greater responsibility for their role in disseminating and promoting such material. In addition, the EU just recently adopted a new regulation on removing terrorist content online. It obliges online platforms to take down terrorist content within the hour anywhere in the European Union.

Today I want to invite our friends from all over the world to work together. Because terrorism is a global threat. And it can only be beaten with a global answer.

After the attacks on the Al Noor and Linwood mosques, New Zealanders truly inspired the world. In how they refused to answer violence and hatred with division and more hatred.
Their message was:

“They are us”.
“We are one”.
“Ko Tatou, Tatou” in Maori.

These words remind us that we must stand together.

We have to do more. And we have to start earlier. We need to prevent terrorism from appearing in the first place. This is why we need to step up our efforts to prevent radicalisation. Because no one is born as a terrorist. We have to tackle the root causes of radicalisation, such as social isolation and poverty. We have to build strong communities, where each of us belongs and no one feels left behind. And we have to fight radical and distorted ideologies with positive ideas and alternative narratives.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

the Internet connects people, it unites us.

The Internet fosters debates, it projects citizens' voices in our democracies. It's our responsibility to make sure it remains that way. It's our job to ensure it is not misused.

You can count on Europe to work together with you and to move forward together.

Thank you very much for your attention.

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