Case study: Response to Christchurch terror attack and the Christchurch Call

The impact of the 15 March terrorist attack was felt around the world and required a wide-ranging response from the Ministry as part of the whole-of-government national security system response.

This included supporting affected foreign nationals, managing VIP visits and preserving our international reputation for tolerance. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister for Ethnic Communities attended a special session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation a week after the attack, to underscore New Zealand’s commitment to spreading tolerance, compassion and understanding.

In countries where New Zealand is represented in the Islamic world, our embassies amplified these messages, reassuring governments and populations that New Zealanders stood with our Muslim community and rejected the terrorist act. This traditional diplomacy was undertaken in parallel with a social media campaign to inform public opinion and counter misinformation.

During the campaign period, the Ministry’s digital diplomacy reached almost 10 million people, in seven languages, with more than 3 million views of our video content.

The attack stood out in the way it weaponised the internet, being explicitly designed to go viral. Concerted efforts were made to subvert the systems that social media platforms use to counter terrorist and violent extremist content online.

The online impact of the Christchurch attack was greater than any other attack of this nature. It required a response that went beyond previous international efforts to counter terrorist use of the internet. The ‘Christchurch Call to Action to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online’ was adopted in Paris on 15 May 2019.

Our partnership with co-host France was critical to the success of the Christchurch Call, which was supported by 17 countries plus the European Commission and eight tech companies. It secured commitments to action from both supporting countries and, critically, all major social media and tech companies. Ministry officials, with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, are continuing to engage with company and country supporters to progress the commitments made under the ‘Call’, with an eye to reporting on progress during Leaders’ Week at the UN General Assembly in late September 2019.

An image of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at a round in Paris for the Christchurch Call..
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at a round in Paris for the Christchurch Call. Credit: MFAT


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