Tokyo: The March 2019 terror attack on praying Muslims at two New Zealand mosques awoke the world to a new kind of threat: The Australian perpetrator livestreamed the bloodbath on Facebook, raising concerns about the potential use of social media and the internet to amplify such horrors.
Ensuring such a thing never happens again will be among the top priorities as leaders of 20 major economies — G20 — gather in Osaka, Japan, on 28-29 June for their annual summit, a senior Japanese diplomat has told ThePrint.
Tomita Koji, representative of the Japanese government for G20, said, “We would like to highlight the question of exploitation of the internet by terrorists in the wake of the shooting incident in Christchurch.”
“This was partly discussed in Hamburg (during the 2017 summit) but we would like to revisit the issue and try to identify what the G20 can do more in this particular aspect.”
Tomita, a senior official of the Japanese Foreign Ministry who is the country’s lead sherpa (government emissary tasked with planning and negotiations) for G20, said Tokyo would like to continue with the counterterrorism initiatives discussed during the July 2017 summit in Hamburg.
“The G20 Summit that was held in Hamburg in 2017 made a strong statement on counterterrorism. We would like to keep that in focus in Osaka,” he added. “Particularly, we would like to highlight the exploitation of the internet by terrorists in the wake of the shooting incident in Christchurch. This was partly discussed in Hamburg but we would like to revisit the issue and try to identify what the G20 can do more in this particular aspect,” Tomita said.
The statement issued in Hamburg had stressed the fact that the private sector and service providers of member countries will be directed to implement measures that help prevent the use of internet and social media by terrorists for propaganda.
It had also urged the industry to “continue investing in technology and human capital to aid in the detection as well as swift and permanent removal of terrorist content”.
India recently became party to a France-led initiative to combat terrorism and extremism online and sanitise the internet, with New Zealand and Canada among the other backers.
The initiative — Christchurch Call to Action — was named after the New Zealand city where 51 people were killed in the 15 March attack, and is aimed at eliminating terrorist and violent extremist content online.
‘WTO reform is an urgent task’
Nineteen countries, including India, and the European Union comprise the membership of G20, which emerged on the scene in the late nineties as a forum for international economic cooperation.
Speaking to ThePrint, Tomita pointed to rising trade tensions as being the main reason behind the slackening growth of countries.
This is why, he said, a complete overhaul of the multilateral trading system under the Geneva-based World Trade Organization (WTO) needs to be dealt with as an “urgent task”.
On this matter, Tomita added, Japan will be taking a cue from the 2018 G20 Summit that was held in Buenos Aires.
“WTO reform is an urgent task. If you look at the situation in the global economy, it is obvious that trade tensions are starting to weigh heavily on the prospect of growth,” he told ThePrint. “So it is not the question of the games we play in terms of trade disputes.”
Tomita, however, stressed the fact that members needed to show “political will” in remaining committed to the multilateral trading system.
(The reporter was in Tokyo on invitation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan)