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Facebook, YouTube called to meet lawmakers about New Zealand shooting video

A House committee is urging tech execs to prioritize the removal of violent terrorist content after the mosque shootings.

Christchurch Mourns After Worst Mass Shooting In New Zealand's History

Tributes near Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, where a shooter opened fire Friday, killing and injuring dozens of people.

Getty Images

The US House Homeland Security Committee is asking CEOs from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft to prioritize the quick removal of violent terrorist content following posts about the New Zealand mosque shooting last week.

Chairman Bennie G. Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi, wrote to the tech execs Tuesday, urging them to remove all violent content, including posts by far-right, domestic terrorists. On Friday, a gunman in Christchurch, New Zealand, opened fire at two mosques as worshippers gathered for prayers. The alleged gunman livestreamed the attack on Facebook.

Even after the social network took down the video and deleted the shooter's account, the clip spread across the internet. Thompson requested a March 27 briefing before the Committee on Homeland Security regarding the companies' response to the sharing of the video and how they plan to prevent similar incidents.

"It is clear from the recent pattern of horrific mass violence and thwarted attempts at mass violence -- here and abroad -- that this is not merely an American issue but a global one," Thompson wrote in the letter addressed to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. "Your companies must prioritize responding to these toxic and violent ideologies with resources and attention."

If the companies aren't willing to do this, Thompson continues, Congress will consider policies to ensure terrorist content isn't shared on the platforms, which includes looking at examples set by other nations.

In 2017, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft launched a joint forum to remove extremist content from their platforms. But Thompson said the New Zealand shooting demonstrates how a terrorist still managed to use the sites to share a violent video.

"I must emphasize how critically important it is for you to prioritize the removal of this sort of sensitive, violent content," Thompson wrote. "Studies have shown that mass killings inspire copycats -- and you must do everything within your power to ensure that the notoriety garnered by a viral video on your platforms does not inspire the next act of violence."

A Facebook representative confirmed that the company will "brief the committee soon." A YouTube representative pointed to a statement regarding the removal of videos and accounts "created to promote or glorify the shooter," but didn't specifically address whether it will meet with the House Homeland Security Committee.

A Microsoft representative said the company received the chairman's letter "and we're ready to work with him, the committee and with others to address the issues he raises."

Twitter didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.