As we completed this report it was announced New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, would meet the French President, Emmanuel Macron in Paris to “bring together countries and tech companies in an attempt to stop social media being used to promote terrorism.” The meeting will invite world leaders and tech company CEOs to sign a pledge called the ‘Christchurch Call’.

The question is no longer whether something needs to change. The question has become: what precisely needs to change? And even more importantly: what can be done? What evidence do we have as to the interventions and solutions that might mitigate against the biggest threats posed to our democracy by digital media, without losing the best of the opportunities that the internet offers. Those are the questions we set about answering with this research.

One of the challenges of rapidly developing a policy response on digital media in response to a situation like the Christchurch attacks is that this entire area of policy has been relatively neglected until recently. As one participant in this research said, we need a better system for making policy on these issues before we can be any kind of global leader. In order to build our capacity as a country to understand and deal with these issues, we need a better evidence base.

What our research shows is that it is critical that the Prime Minister and her advisors look beyond immediate concerns about violent extremism and content moderation, to consider the wider context in which digital media is having a growing, and increasingly negative, impact on our democracy.

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