Jacinda Ardern spoke out against the “misinformation business” on the Internet in an appeal to Harvard Universityin which she also received applause for her government’s laws on gun control, diversity and the decriminalization of abortion.
The Prime Minister of New Zealand honored the American University by making annual start address more than a thousand students on Thursday from a single scene with figures such as Winston Churchill, Angela Merkel, Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey.
Arderna address was built on the need for democratic systems and sound debate, citing the same demand by the late Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who stressed the “shakiness” of democracy in her 1989 speech to the university.
But when the United States broke away from a massacre at a school in Texas and was paralyzed by how to stop the violence, she received loud applause and applause when she talked about how her government dealt with gun owners as a result Attacks on the mosque in Christchurch in 2019.
“We knew we needed significant arms reform, and that’s what we did,” she said. “But we also knew that if we want real solutions to the problem of violent extremism on the Internet, we will need government, civil society and technology companies to change the landscape.”
Developing her theme of trying to combat internet extremists such as the perpetrator of the Christchurch attacks, Ardern linked the issue to the defense of democracy.
“This imperfect but valuable way that we are organizing, that was created to give an equal voice to the weak and the strong, that is designed to help reach consensus – it’s fragile,” Ardern said.
“For many years, it seems that we have believed that the fragility of democracy is determined by duration.
“That the power of your democracy be like marriage; the longer you stay in it, the more likely it is to get stuck. “But it’s so self-evident.”
Ardern targeted misinformation online and urged technology companies to do more to stop the spread of conspiracy theories online.
“It’s time for social media and other ISPs to recognize their authority and act on it,” she said.
She ended her speech with a call for kindness and overcoming disagreements with others. “What we do as individuals in these spaces also matters … we are richer for our differences and poorer than our division,” she said.
Ardern was greeted with cheers when she told the crowd that there were 50% women in the New Zealand Parliament, almost 20% Maori, and her deputy was “a proud gay man sitting among several other rainbow parliamentarians”. She was welcomed after changes in the law, including the decriminalization of abortion, a ban on most assault weapons and a ban on “conversion therapy”.
Traditionally for first speakers, Ardern was also awarded an honorary degree, in her case a Doctor of Laws.