Several major brands in New Zealand are reported to have withdrawn advertising from Google and Facebook, or are considering doing so, following the livestreaming of the massacre in Christchurch last week that left 50 people dead.

ASB Bank, ANZ Bank, TSB, Westpac, Kiwibank, BNZ, Burger King and Lotto NZ, are among those who have pulled ads or are considering doing so, reports Campaign.

There have been widespread calls for social media to step up efforts to prevent the spread of hate content on their platforms.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been fiercely critical in the wake of the attacks.

“We cannot simply sit back and accept that these platforms just exist and what is said is not the responsibility of the place where they are published,” she told parliament.

“They are the publisher not just the postman. There cannot be a case of all profit, no responsibility.”

Not only was the Christchurch killer able to livestream the massacre on Facebook, but the video was still widely available on other platforms hours after the attack.

Facebook says the shootings, which were livestreamed for 17 minutes, were watched by only a small number of people, but accepts that monitoring the uploading of copies is ongoing. It says it blocked or took down some 1.5 million clips of the massacre within 24 hours of the shootings.

"In the time that it was actually live, fewer than 200 people viewed it," the social network's vice president for global policy Monika Bickert told the New Zealand Herald

She admitted, however, that Facebook’s AI monitoring system had not picked up on the livestream.

Not only did the platform’s AI fail to raise the alarm, but some commentators have raised concerns that issues surrounding monitoring could become even more challenging in future as a result of Facebook’s planned new encrypted system for all users’ communications. 

As Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a recent blog, “People’s private communications should be secure. End-to-end encryption prevents anyone – including us – from seeing what people share on our services.”

Writing in The Guardian, professor of public understanding of technology at the Open University John Naughton says encryption could turn out to be a gift for criminals. It’s also a way for Facebook to absolve itself of responsibility, he argues.

“The exponentially increasing costs of “moderating” Facebook content will eventually become unsupportable. But if much of that content morphs into encrypted messaging then, all of a sudden, Facebook can no longer be held accountable for it – and much of the cost of ‘moderation’ evaporates. So, the pivot is a way of getting a huge PR win while saving a ton of money.”

Meanwhile, Facebook is facing increasing pressure from regulators, with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in the UK being ordered to investigate the digital advertising market as a whole, and in particular the duopoly of Google and Facebook, which dominates the UK’s market, worth £13.1 billion in 2018, according to the AA/WARC Expenditure Report; that figure is set to rise to around £14.4 billion in 2019.

Sourced from Campaign, New Zealand Herald, The Guardian, WARC