Australian investors join “Christchurch call” to rein in social media giants

The push by Jacinda Ardern, Scott Morrision and other world leaders for Facebook and Google to prevent the screening of terror attacks is being supported by private companies and investors.

A New Zealand-led global collaboration of investors is leading the “Christchurch Call” campaign to engage with Facebook and other social media companies, in the wake of the Christchurch mosque shootings.

The objective is for the social media majors (Facebook, Alphabet and Twitter) to strengthen controls to prevent the live-streaming and distribution of content such as the disturbing propaganda footage shot by the alleged Christchurch gunman.

Australian ethical fund managers U Ethical, have joined the call. U Ethical is an Australian ethical investment manager with links to the Uniting Church with more than $1 billion under management. CEO, Mat Browning says “The sheer size of Facebook and Google means that business cannot simply sit on the sidelines and we are calling for more Australian investors to support the initiative started by their New Zealand counterparts.”

As of last week, the campaign includes 37 New Zealand-based investors and another 42 from the rest of the world, in a grouping that has AU$8.6 trillion (NZ$9 trillion) of assets under management. Link:

The spokesperson for the investor group, New Zealand Super Fund CEO Matt Whineray, has said the engagement with social media companies will involve monitoring and ensuring accountability for the Christchurch Call commitments.

Despite the collective financial clout of the investors, it still seems to be a David versus Goliath battle given the size and profitability of the social media giants.

U Ethical does not hold shares in Facebook but has a stake in Alphabet (which owns Google and YouTube). Its Ethical Investment Policy commits it to evaluating companies to ensure they don’t “cause or perpetuate injustice and suffering”.

CEO, Mat Browning has said that U Ethical believes that “as investors we have more leverage with Alphabet/Google by holding on to our shares and lending our name to the global engagement campaign than by divesting. The investors who have supported the “Christchurch Call” are not seeking censorship – we want the social media giants to prevent the screening of abhorrent violent conduct where possible and to react swiftly if it does occur.”

/Public Release.