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The Social Media Collaborative Engagement led by the Guardians of New Zealand Superannuation (Guardians) alongside the New Zealand government-owned investors, and supported by more than 100 global and domestic investors, has been awarded the Stewardship Initiative of the Year at the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) 2021 Awards.

The PRI Awards recognise excellence in ESG across the investment sector, highlighting examples of leadership in order to raise standards of responsible investment globally. The winning initiatives were selected by an independent judging panel from 110 entries, sent in by PRI signatories headquartered in 25 different countries.

The Initiative was established in response to the premeditated attack on two Christchurch Mosques on March 15 2019 which took the lives of 51 New Zealanders and severely impacted many more. By capturing an act of terror live on social media and using the internet as a tool to boost exposure to the killings, the gunman ensured his hateful agenda was maximally amplified.

The Initiative engaged the world’s three largest social media companies (Facebook, Alphabet and Twitter) and sought to convince them to strengthen controls to prevent the livestreaming and dissemination of objectionable content.

The project garnered support from across the globe and eventually grew to consist of 105 investors, reflecting widespread acknowledgement of the need for change by the international investment community.

PRI Director of Stewardship, Paul Chandler, said “We’re delighted to name the Social Media Collaborative Engagement as the PRI Stewardship Initiative of the Year, following an independent judging process.

“Putting an end to the spread of objectionable material across social media is still a work in progress. This work is incredibly important, and the Guardians and the investors supporting this initiative have had the resolve and creativity to be a significant influence.

“This project adds to growing investor scrutiny on the critically important role of social and traditional media in our societies, in particular their role in minimising harms linked to polarisation and distrust of institutions. We encourage other investors to follow the lead of the Guardians by continuing further collaboration in this area.”

Guardians’ Senior Investment Strategist Katie Beith, said “This tragedy will always be with us and we will never forget those who lost their lives and the pain and suffering caused to their families and friends.

“Progress has been made by each of the social media companies to stop the spread of objectionable material, but a continued focus on the evolution of preventative safeguards is needed. 

“The issue of content moderation is becoming one of the defining legal and socio-political issues of our time. It deserves its own body of specialist expertise stretching across a range of academia, law and policy.

"Our expectation is that these companies carry out their duty of care with absolute resolve, and while we’ve seen some good progress throughout our engagement – the goal posts keep moving and the companies need to remain focused on managing this.

“This project has been a true global collaboration by all the investors who came together to speak with a unified voice. I want to extend a special thanks to all of those who committed their time, guidance, support and efforts to enable us to drive greater accountability and to encourage much needed reform.”