House panel seeks answers from tech CEOs over shooting video

The head of the House Homeland Security Committee asked four technology companies to attend a closed-door briefing next week on their efforts to prevent violent videos from being disseminated in the wake of last week’s mass shooting in New Zealand.

Chairman Bennie Thompson (D., Miss.) asked the chief executives of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft to appear before the committee on March 27 for a private briefing “regarding your response to the dissemination of the video of the New Zealand terrorist attack on your platforms and how your companies intend to prevent this disturbing incident from happening again.”

The letter, dated Monday, was publicly released Tuesday. Representatives for Microsoft and Facebook said the companies planned to brief the committee as requested but didn’t commit to which executives they would send. YouTube didn’t respond to requests for comment about how it would respond to the letter, and Twitter declined to comment.

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The companies have faced criticism after scenes of Friday’s New Zealand mosque massacre were streamed live on Facebook and recordings of it were posted on Twitter and YouTube, which is a unit of Alphabet Inc.’s Google.

New Zealand police said the footage of the attack on a pair of mosques, which left 50 dead, was “extremely distressing” and urged people not to circulate it. Yet the video was widely available online as the tech platforms scrambled to pull down the offending posts only to have them reappear elsewhere.

The video shows a gunman walking through a mosque and firing at worshipers who slump to the floor.

“Your companies must prioritize responding to these toxic and violent ideologies with resources and attention. If you are unwilling to do so, Congress must consider policies to ensure that terrorist content is not distributed on your platforms—including by studying the examples being set by other countries,” Mr. Thompson said in the letter to the four chief executives.

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A Facebook spokeswoman has said the company removed the video once New Zealand police flagged it, and deleted the Facebook and Instagram accounts belonging to the alleged shooter, Brenton Tarrant, who has been charged with murder.

Twitter said it had suspended Mr. Tarrant’s account and worked to remove the video from its platform. YouTube said it had removed thousands of videos related to the shootings.

Click here for more from The Wall Street Journal, where this story was first published.