Morning Brief

A Global Call to End Online Extremism

Government leaders and tech companies convene to combat violent extremism online, an ongoing curfew amid violence in Sri Lanka, and the crackdown on Venezuela’s opposition continues.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to the media on April 24 in Auckland.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to the media on April 24 in Auckland. Phil Walter/Getty Images

Countries, Companies Convene to Tackle Violent Extremism Online

France and New Zealand’s leaders meet in Paris today to demand that tech companies and governments work to put an end to acts of violent extremism appearing online. In the wake of the March terrorist attack in Christchurch that was livestreamed on social media, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has helped propel a larger global push to regulate online platforms. “Our aim may not be simple, but it is clearly focused: to end terrorist and violent extremist content online,” she wrote in the New York Times. “This can succeed only if we collaborate.”

In Paris, Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron will sign a nonbinding agreement—the “Christchurch Call to Action”—asking tech companies to ensure the removal of violent content, modify their algorithms, and share data with governments. They will be joined by leaders from Canada, the European Union, Senegal, Indonesia, and Jordan, as well as representatives from Facebook, Google, and Twitter.

A global problem. Leaders have increasingly recognized online extremism to be a global issue. Visiting a mosque in Christchurch on Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said he will develop a global plan to combat hate speech. While policymakers agree that violence and hate speech must be addressed, how to do it has remained an open question.

The United States is not expected to sign the pledge today out of concern for free speech. “Frankly, New Zealand and France are stepping into the breach left by the absence of US leadership,” Karen Kornbluh, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund, wrote in an email.

What will come of it? Whether the large tech companies—which are expected to sign—make substantive changes based on a nonbinding agreement is another story. But Kornbluh argues that the pledge does commit them to some public accountability and transparency. “In the best case scenario, the Call to Action provides the political pressure and support for platforms to increase vigilance in enforcing their terms of service against violent white supremacist networks,” she wrote.


What We’re Following Today

Tensions run high in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has enacted a nationwide curfew for the second night following anti-Muslim riots in the wake of the deadly bombings on Easter Sunday. Police have arrested 60 people—including a far-right Buddhist leader—amid the violence, which was centered north of the capital.

Meanwhile, investigators in Sri Lanka have pieced together a key link in the extremist network that carried out the Easter bombings, Reuters reports: a software engineer, who had been monitored by Indian intelligence agencies.

Crackdown on Venezuelan opposition continues. Venezuela’s top court accused four opposition lawmakers of treason on Tuesday, as the government of President Nicolás Maduro continues to crack down on allies of challenger Juan Guaidó. Security forces blocked opposition lawmakers from entering Venezuela’s parliament building earlier in the day. Last week, the country’s top court stripped several opposition politicians of parliamentary immunity.

Brazil’s top security advisor said Tuesday that the Venezuelan military is likely to decide Maduro’s fate. Observers of the current crisis would be wise to look at Cuba’s influence, Jorge C. Carrasco argues for FP.

Sudan’s second-in-command. As violence plagues efforts to negotiate a transition of power in Sudan following the ouster of ex-President Omar al-Bashir, the country’s interim vice president may be calling the shots. In FP, Jérôme Tubiana profiles Mohamed Hamdan “Hemeti” Dagolo, who was in charge of the militias that terrorized Darfur.


Keep an Eye On

A message from Iran? Armed drones struck two oil pumping stations in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, causing the price of crude oil to rise. Experts believe Iran is behind the sabotage of Saudi oil installations and intends to send a message, Keith Johnson reports. “Iran might have another goal in mind, if in fact it is behind the attacks: To make clear that the country cannot be pushed around indefinitely with no price to pay,” he writes.

A delayed monsoon in India. India’s monsoon is expected to arrive late and deliver less rain than usual this year. The forecast could mean slow growth for the country’s economy, which depends heavily on agriculture.

Europe’s hot button issue. While the number of migrants arriving in Europe has fallen, along with asylum requests, a recent poll of eight countries indicates that immigration remains the top concern for voters across the European Union—a boon for anti-immigration parties.

Killings in Mexico. When Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took office last December, he pledged to reduce the country’s violence. But this year’s murder tally is on track to outpace that of 2018: Authorities have uncovered 337 bodies in hidden graves since López Obrador’s term began.

Brexit deal, round four. British Prime Minister Theresa May plans to bring her Brexit withdrawal agreement back to Parliament—despite her proposed deal having been defeated three times. There will likely be a vote in June, after the government agreed to a summer deadline. Some in her own party have vowed to vote against it and are also pushing for May to announce the date when she will step down.


Ballot Box

In India’s ongoing general election, Prime Minister Narendra Modi still holds a considerable lead over the leader of the Indian National Congress party. The vote has made clear that neither party is prepared to deal with the country’s youth unemployment, Neha Thirani Bagri argues for FP.

As the African National Congress and President Cyril Ramaphosa approach a new term in office in South Africa, the party’s reduced majority proves that it can no longer rely on the reflexive support of black voters and should prepare to face more protests from the younger generation, who are taking to the streets rather than the polls to make their voices heard, Sisonke Msimang writes for FP.

Election results released last week showed Thailand’s opposition alliance winning the most seats in the House of Representatives. But on Tuesday the ruling junta appointed 250 senators, with a third linked to the military or police—likely enough to keep Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha in power.

A court in Guatemala banned the daughter of ex-dictator Efraín Rios Montt from competing in the country’s presidential elections, which take place in June. Zury Rios was running to succeed current President Jimmy Morales.


Odds and Ends

Somalia postponed its nationwide high school exit exams after test papers were shared and sold on social media. The government now intends to block social media platforms when the students sit the exams at the end of the month.

The Vatican has launched its first women’s soccer team. Players join a host of other athletes representing the Vatican as it seeks to compete on the international stage, including at the Olympics.


That’s it for today.

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Audrey Wilson is the newsletter editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @audreybwilson

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