Facebook and the mosque shooting


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A police officer stands guard in front of the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, Sunday, March 17, 2019, where one of two mass shootings occurred. New Zealand's stricken residents reached out to Muslims in their neighborhoods and around the country on Saturday, to show kindness to a community in pain as a 28-year-old white supremacist stood silently before a judge, accused in mass shootings at two mosques that left dozens of people dead. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

A police officer stands guard in front of the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, Sunday, March 17, 2019, where one of two mass shootings occurred. New Zealand's stricken residents reached out to Muslims in their neighborhoods and around the country on Saturday, to show kindness to a community in pain as a 28-year-old white supremacist stood silently before a judge, accused in mass shootings at two mosques that left dozens of people dead. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)


This combination of images shows logos for companies from left, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. These Internet companies and others say they’re working to remove video footage filmed by a gunman in the New Zealand mosque shooting that was widely available on social media hours after the horrific attack. (AP Photos/File)


Facebook says no one flagged NZ mosque shooting livestream

By KELVIN CHAN

AP Business Writer

Tuesday, March 19

LONDON (AP) — Facebook says none of the 200 or so people who watched live video of the New Zealand mosque shooting flagged it to moderators, underlining the challenge tech companies face in policing violent or disturbing content in real time.

The social media giant released new details about its response to the video in a blog post. It said the gunman’s live 17-minute broadcast was viewed fewer than 200 times and the first user report didn’t come in until 12 minutes after it ended. Fifty people were killed at two mosques in Christchurch.

Facebook removed the video “within minutes’” of being notified by police, said Chris Sonderby, Facebook’s deputy general counsel.

“No users reported the video during the live broadcast,” and it was watched about 4,000 times in total before being taken down, Sonderby said. “We continue to work around the clock to prevent this content from appearing on our site, using a combination of technology and people.”

Facebook has previously said that in the first 24 hours after the massacre, it removed 1.5 million videos of the attacks, “of which over 1.2 million were blocked at upload,” implying 300,000 copies successfully made it on to the site before being taken down.

The video’s rapid spread online puts renewed pressure on Facebook and other social media sites such as YouTube and Twitter over their content moderation efforts. Many question why Facebook in particular wasn’t able to more quickly detect the video and take it down.

On Tuesday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expressed frustration that the footage remained online four days after the killings. She said she had received “some communication” from Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg on the issue. “It is horrendous and while they’ve given us those assurances, ultimately the responsibility does sit with them.”

Facebook uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to detect objectionable material, while at the same time relying on the public to flag up content that violates its standards. Those reports are then sent to human reviewers who decide what action to take, the company said in a video in November , which also outlined how it uses “computer vision” to detect 97 percent of graphic violence before anyone reports it. However, it’s less clear how these systems apply to Facebook’s live streaming.

To report live video, a user must know to click on a small set of three gray dots on the right side of the post. When you click on “report live video,” you’re given a choice of objectionable content types to select from, including violence, bullying and harassment. You’re also told to contact law enforcement in your area if someone is in immediate danger.

Before the company was alerted to the video, a user on 8chan had already posted a link to copy of it on a file sharing site, Sonderby said. 8chan is a dark corner of the web where those disaffected by mainstream social media sites often post extremist, racist and violent views.

In another indication of the video’s spread by those intent on sharing it, the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, a group of global internet companies led by Facebook, YouTube, Microsoft and Twitter, said it added more than 800 different versions to a shared database used to block violent terrorist images and videos.

The group said it added “digital fingerprints” for visually distinct versions of the video to its database. The move came in response to attempts by internet users to share the video by editing or repackaging versions with different digital fingerprints to avoid detection.

“The incident highlights the importance of industry cooperation regarding the range of terrorists and violent extremists operating online,” said the group, which was formed in 2017 in response to official pressure to do more to fight online extremism.

In a series of tweets a day after the shootings , Facebook’s former chief security officer, Alex Stamos, laid out the challenge for tech companies as they raced to keep up with new versions of the video.

“Each time this happens, the companies have to spot it and create a new fingerprint,” said Stamos. “What you are seeing on the major platforms is the water leaking around thousands of fingers poked in a dam,” he said

Stamos estimated the big tech companies are blocking more than 99 percent of the videos from being uploaded, “which is not enough to make it impossible to find.”

The Conversation

What is the significance of Friday prayers in Islam?

March 19, 2019

Author: Rose S. Aslan, Assistant Professor of Religion, California Lutheran University

Disclosure statement: Rose S. Aslan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Following the terror attack on two New Zealand mosques last week, many Muslim communities across the world gathered as usual for their most important weekly ritual – Friday prayers.

In the past few years, Muslims have been attacked and killed while praying, many times on a Friday. Worshippers have been targeted in countries such as Nigeria, Pakistan, Egypt, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iraq and Kuwait.

Muslims pray five times a day every day, but the most important prayer of the week is “jumah,” or the day of gathering, on Friday.

So why are Friday prayers so central to the Islamic faith?

The religious significance

I’m a scholar of Islam who researches and writes about Muslim ritual practices. The Qur’an invokes the importance of Friday as a sacred day of worship in a chapter called “Al-Jumah,” meaning the day of congregation, which is also the word for Friday in Arabic.

It states, “O you who believe! When you are called to congregational (Friday) prayer, hasten to the remembrance of God and leave off trade. That is better for you, if you but knew.”

Muslims believe Friday was chosen by God as a dedicated day of worship. In addition to the prayer itself, which is shorter than the usual midday prayers, Friday services include a sermon, usually given by a professional male Muslim clergy member in Muslim majority countries, but in the West, they are also given by a male lay community member.

Muslim men are required to attend Friday prayers as long as they not traveling, while women are given the option to attend, given their traditional role in the household when Islam was established.

In some countries, such as India, Pakistan and Tajikistan, women are not usually permitted to pray in mosques whereas in countries like Iran and Kenya, they attend in larger numbers. In almost all mosques, men and women pray separately. In some places women are behind the men in the same room and in others, women are in a different room or behind a barrier.

In the West, many women choose to attend prayer if they can get time away from work or other duties. In Los Angeles and elsewhere in North America and Europe, women lead their own Friday prayer services.

To prepare for prayers, Muslims bathe, apply perfume and brush their teeth to make their appearance pleasant to their fellow worshippers.

The Prophet Muhammad spoke of the value of praying in congregation rather than individually, promising spiritual rewards, such as answered prayers and forgiveness for one’s sins. Attending Friday prayers, the Prophet said, is equivalent to one entire year of praying and fasting alone.

A song by U.S. Muslim singer Raef Haggag describes how Muslims prepare and perform jumah prayers and their benefits. It provides a light but serious message about the significance of Friday prayers, especially for Western Muslims.

The tradition of prayer

Some Muslim majority countries, such as Egypt, Iran and Pakistan, include Friday as part of the weekend, with Saturday sometimes being a holiday, and Sunday being a regular workday.

On this day, many Muslims spend the day with their families, attend the prayer and also relax, although practices can vary. Commercial activities always continue after Friday prayers, but in Muslim-majority countries, most people get the day off.

Many people who do not have time to attend the mosque during the week will make a special effort to attend during Friday prayers.

In countries where the call to prayer is projected from loudspeakers, entire cities will be saturated with their sounds. Sermons too are often publicly broadcast, and in many cities, including in Western countries such as France, congregants overflow into the streets around mosques.

Crowded cities are often empty and quiet, up until the prayers, after which they are full of people enjoying their day off.

In the United States, Muslims have to receive special accommodation from their workplace to visit a nearby mosque. Some workplaces such as universities, hospitals or corporate offices, allow employees to organize their own Friday prayer on site.

As a religious ritual that goes back to the practice of the Prophet, Friday prayers hold a special place for Muslims.

The Nation

Why Is It So Hard for Our President to Condemn White Supremacy and Islamophobia?

The horrific attack on mosques in New Zealand tells us, again, that racist hatred is a global terrorist threat. It must be identified as such, and robustly rejected.

By John Nichols

March 15, 2019

Donald Trump had a chance to boldly condemn white supremacy and Islamophobia on Friday morning. Instead, after issuing a muffled statement of sympathy for the victims of murderous attacks on mosques in New Zealand, the president of the United States went back to complaining, in great and extended detail, that special counsel Robert Mueller “should never have been appointed and there should be no Mueller Report.”

On one of the darkest days in history for Muslims worldwide, the president’s initial response to the New Zealand killings failed to mention Muslims, Islam, Islamophobia, white supremacy, racism, bigotry or violent hatred that targets people based on their religion.

Trump will, hopefully, come around to more explicitly and effectively condemning the latest acts of mass violence directed at places of worship by white supremacists. But his every action reminds us that we have a president whose priorities are so warped that he cannot bring himself to lead in the moment when leadership is most needed.

Even the president’s supporters, who make excuses for what they tell us are his “lapses,” and who so ardently reject any suggestion that he encourages or tolerates bigotry, have to recognize that Trump is failing miserably as a leader. The United States is a powerful, influential country. But the measures of American leadership on the global stage are fluid. They depend on the quality of the individuals who occupy positions of public trust and authority.

Yet, whenever the moment demands more, Trump offers less. After the killing of at least 49 people in mass shootings at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch, it was immediately clear that this was what New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern identified it as: “a terrorist attack” committed by “people who I would describe as having extremist views that have absolutely no place in New Zealand and in fact have no place in the world.”

By Friday morning in the United States, Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League was telling NPR that the Christchurch attack “clearly was motivated by white supremacy.”

“We’ve got a big problem on our hands and we need to recognize that social media allows white supremacy, much like other forms of hate, to travel across borders, and we’ve got to recognize it for the global terror threat that it really is,” warned Greenblatt, who noted that the killer in Christchurch had referenced white supremacists and white nationalists who had engaged in mass murder in the United States and other countries.

The right response to a big problem is to identify it, and bluntly call it out, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel did when she reacted with grief and horror to the fact that, once again, “citizens who were attacked and murdered out of racist hatred.” And as Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan did when he condemned those those who “collectively” and “deliberately” choose to demonize Muslims, and warned that “I blame these increasing terror attacks on the current Islamophobia.”

There is no point in mincing words about the threat posed by white supremacy and Islamophobia. Indeed, mincing words sends precisely the wrong signal.

Yet President Trump’s response on Friday morning, delivered long after details of the killer’s white supremacist and Islamophobic sentiments were broadcast around the world, was a muted tweet that read: “My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques. 49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!”

“Warm sympathy” is all fine and good. But, according to news reports, the Australian-born suspect in the mass shooting wrote a 87-page manifesto that described the American president as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.” Trump, who invited an international outcry with his suggestion that there were “very fine people” among white supremacists and white nationalists who mounted violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, should have recognized the need to respond in a dramatically better way this time.

This was an opportunity for the president to lead. He refused to take it Friday morning, and he explicitly rejected it Friday afternoon—when asked if he saw white nationalism as a mounting global threat, Trump’s reply was dismissive: “I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems.”

So what did concern Trump on this awful day? Instead of condemning white supremacy, he erupted in an extended Twitter tantrum about the Mueller inquiry, which concluded with an all-caps declaration that “THIS SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN TO A PRESIDENT AGAIN!”

The language of “Never Again!” should have been employed on Friday. But not with regard to a legitimate investigation into political and presidential wrongdoing. It should have been employed to condemn racist hatred and violence that has targeted churches, synagogues, and mosques. But Trump could not get there. Instead, he literally repeated his attacks on the woman who won 2.9 million more votes than he did in the 2016 presidential election. Yes, Trump found time on Friday morning to attack “Crooked Hillary,” but no time to attack white supremacy or Islamophobia.

And what was former secretary of state Hillary Clinton saying at roughly the same time?

“My heart breaks for New Zealand & the global Muslim community. We must continue to fight the perpetuation and normalization of Islamophobia and racism in all its forms,” wrote Clinton. “White supremacist terrorists must be condemned by leaders everywhere. Their murderous hatred must be stopped.”

That is how a president of the United States is supposed to respond in a moment of horror that demands clarity—and leadership.

John Nichols is The Nation’s national-affairs correspondent. He is the author of Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse: A Field Guide to the Most Dangerous People in America, from Nation Books, and co-author, with Robert W. McChesney, of People Get Ready: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy.

The Conversation

The psychology of fear and hate, and what each of us can do to stop it

March 15, 2019

Author: Stephen Croucher, Professor and Head of School of Communication, Journalism, and Marketing, Massey University

Disclosure statement: Stephen Croucher does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Partners: Massey University provides funding as a member of The Conversation NZ. Massey University provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU.

As an immigrant to New Zealand, I am saddened and outraged by the events in Christchurch. The apparent innocence of New Zealand has been stripped away by acts of cowardice and evil.

Police remain on high alert and authorities are still responding to events following the shootings at two mosques in Christchurch that took the lives of 50 people and seriously injured many more. Three people have been arrested, and one, an Australian living in New Zealand sporadically, has appeared in court on murder charges.

My research focuses on how members of a majority perceive a growing immigrant population, and what we can all do to keep fear and hatred in check.

Migrants target of hate

The alleged gunman (whom The Conversation has chosen not to name) is a self-identified white supremacist. Before the attacks he posted an 87-page manifesto online. In his manifesto and social media accounts, he refers to the rise of Islam, and to towns and cities being shamed and ruined by migrants.

He posts photos of ammunition, retweets alt-right references and praises other white supremacists. The manifesto includes references to “white genocide,” which is likely a reference to a conspiracy theory embraced by the alt-right and white supremacists that “non-white” migration dilutes white nations.

The gunman’s motivations seem to echo those of other white supremacists who have committed similar atrocities: the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter, the Charlottesville attacker, the Charleston church shooter, and attackers in Sweden, Quebec and Norway.

In each of these cases, the attackers voiced hatred toward minorities or immigrants and expressed a belief that their way of life, the “white” way, was being destroyed by these groups who were infiltrating their societies.

Over the past decade, my team has conducted research in India, France, Finland, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, analysing how members of the dominant group perceive minorities and immigrant groups. The research has shown that many dominant group members, often white Christians in the countries studied, express fear of immigrants in their nations. In particular, respondents have voiced fear of immigrants changing their cultural, political, and economic way of life.

Combating fears to reduce hate

Normally such fears are benign and lead only to misunderstanding or lack of interaction. But as we have seen too often, they can lead to prejudice, hatred and much worse.

Recently, such fears have become more visceral with the proliferation of social media platforms. With the use of social media, individuals can easily find others who share their feelings, and therefore not feel alone. The ability to find a community that shares one’s feelings provides a sense of security and validates ones fears and feelings of hate.

Read more: Why news outlets should think twice about republishing the New Zealand mosque shooter’s livestream

In our increasingly connected world, it’s essential we take steps to combat these fears to reduce the chances of such atrocities happening in the future. First, how families talk about minorities and immigrants is critical. In work that we conducted in Finland, we found prejudicial opinions of Finns toward Russian immigrants are largely shaped during adolescence. It’s incumbent upon parents to be role models for their children and adolescents and to promote tolerance and mutual respect early.

Second, in an increasingly computer-mediated world, it is our shared responsibility to challenge racist and hateful cyber messages. If you see a YouTube clip that you deem abusive or offensive, report it.

Third, the more contact we have with each other and learn about one another, the less likely we are to fear one another. This may sound trite, but the more we know about other groups, the more likely we are to pass that information onto one another and improve overall social cohesion. In turn, we are better able to identify and challenge those bent on dividing society. It is our collective responsibility as diverse societies to recognise our diversity and to face the psychology of hate that would attack our home and us.

A police officer stands guard in front of the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, Sunday, March 17, 2019, where one of two mass shootings occurred. New Zealand’s stricken residents reached out to Muslims in their neighborhoods and around the country on Saturday, to show kindness to a community in pain as a 28-year-old white supremacist stood silently before a judge, accused in mass shootings at two mosques that left dozens of people dead. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2019/03/web1_122525631-b466b4b585ea4b40a9c891f73d75f89c.jpgA police officer stands guard in front of the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, Sunday, March 17, 2019, where one of two mass shootings occurred. New Zealand’s stricken residents reached out to Muslims in their neighborhoods and around the country on Saturday, to show kindness to a community in pain as a 28-year-old white supremacist stood silently before a judge, accused in mass shootings at two mosques that left dozens of people dead. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

This combination of images shows logos for companies from left, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. These Internet companies and others say they’re working to remove video footage filmed by a gunman in the New Zealand mosque shooting that was widely available on social media hours after the horrific attack. (AP Photos/File)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2019/03/web1_122525631-9b87f05f9b4147e58599e2d94c7960fa.jpgThis combination of images shows logos for companies from left, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. These Internet companies and others say they’re working to remove video footage filmed by a gunman in the New Zealand mosque shooting that was widely available on social media hours after the horrific attack. (AP Photos/File)
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