Christchurch

Though it’s a little rich to call Donald Trump a champion of the free press, he got it right in declining to sign the “Christchurch Call” agreement that is intended to curtail online extremism.

The UK, France, Germany, Spain, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, European Commission, Senegal, Jordan, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, India, Indonesia and Japan signed the agreement on May 15, along with Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Google and Microsoft.

The Call outlines a bunch of vague actions like enforcing existing laws on producing and distributing extremist content and supporting standards on reporting terror attacks. The measures must be “consistent with a free, open, and secure internet.” The governments agreed to "encourage media outlets to apply ethical standards when depicting terrorist events online." Oh, oh. What are those ethical standards? What if a media outlet failed to reach those benchmarks? Does it get shut down?

For their part, social media companies pledged to work with each other and with governments to prevent a repeat of the March live streaming of the March mosque attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, that led to the murder of 51 people. 

The goal of the Call, which is preventing global distribution of video of an ongoing terror attack, is admirable. The US though, shouldn’t get involved in regulating content. That would put Uncle Sam on the proverbial “slippery slope” to censorship.

After all, who would be the decider when it comes to determining what is objectionable material? The First Amendment applies to even the most hideous speech.

The White House cited constitutional issues for its refusal to sign the agreement.

”We continue to be proactive in our efforts to counter terrorist content online while also continuing to respect freedom of expression and freedom of the press,” a White House spokesperson told the Washington Post. “Further, we maintain that the best tool to defeat terrorist speech is productive speech, and thus we emphasize the importance of promoting credible, alternative narratives as the primary means by which we can defeat terrorist messaging.”

Team Trump did promise to stand “with the international community in condemning terrorist and violent extremist content online.” It just doesn’t want to play the role of referee.

The president, who demeans reporters, dismisses critical articles as "fake news," and trashes the press as the "enemy of the people" called it right when it came to not signing The Call.