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Free speech at what cost? Former Facebook boss admits Christchurch has prompted a rethink

The former CEO for Facebook in Australia and New Zealand says social media giants have two options following the Christchurch massacre.

Accused killer Brenton Tarrant used Facebook to live-stream video of his horrific crimes.

The video was then available for replay across the internet as ill-equipped tech companies desperately tried to suppress the horror.

It has prompted a debate about how social media platforms are regulated, and where responsibility lies for the publishing of such atrocities.

And Stephen Scheeler, who worked alongside Mark Zuckerberg as Facebook’s ANZ boss until 2017, admits he is starting to rethink his position on the matter.

“When I was at Facebook … I believed very strongly in the concept of free speech,” he told Neil Mitchell. “Silicon Valley and platforms like Facebook are very free speech-centric, they’re big advocates for the freedom of the internet.

“Just in the past couple of years I think we have now come to a point where we have to question: Is the ideal of freedom supposedly going to trump everything else in terms of the negative effects these platforms can have.

“And I think that, now, in my own mind, is open to debate.”

He said Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and other platforms had two options when it came to live-streaming:

a) Improve technology

b) End it — “You could stop live-streaming. That is an option.”

Click PLAY for Simon Scheeler’s full, wide-ranging interview with Neil Mitchell