Scoop has an Ethical Paywall
Work smarter with a Pro licence Learn More

Local Govt | National News Video | Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Search


Makes Sense Present A Petition Calling For Illegal S*xual Content To Be Blocked

On April 11th, Makes Sense campaigners, Holly Brooker and Jo Robertson, presented their parliamentary petition, with 10,575 signatures, to ACT MP Laura Trask on the steps of parliament. This was followed by a meeting with Minister of Internal Affairs, Brooke van Velden.

The petition is calling for the modernisation and expansion of the Digital Child Exploitation Filtering System (DCEFS), held by the Department of Internal Affairs, to prevent children from stumbling across illegal and objectionable material online. They are also asking the Government to adopt the UK’s Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) block list immediately- this can ensure up to 30,000 URLs of child sex abuse material (CSAM) are blocked per day, a huge improvement from the DCEFS current blocking of approximately 400 URLs.

Holly and Jo addressed the crowd of supporters, including friends and whanau and representatives from organisations including Save the Children, Netsafe, ECPAT, Salvation Army and Safe Surfer before formally handing over the petition, with letters of support from NGO’s. This was followed by an address by MP Laura Trask.

Several MPs spoke in support of digital safety online, including MP Marama Davidson, Co-Leader of Green Party, Labour MP Helen White- Mt Albert Electorate, Labour MP Lemauga Lydia Sosene, Internal Affairs Spokesperson, MP National Greg Flemming - Maungakiekie electorate and Deputy Chair of Petitions, National MP, Ryan Hamilton- Hamilton East electorate. Holly’s daughter and Jo’s son also gave a heartfelt speech about the importance of keeping kids safe online.

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

Holly Brooker says, “After a year of gathering signatures it was a milestone to present this petition and great to well-rounded support from so many NGOs and government officials present. It is clear there is a desire to make the internet safer for kids, now we need to turn these positive sentiments into real and decisive action to prevent more children being harmed”.

Photo supplied

Following the petition presentation, Holly Brooker and Jo Robertson, Co-founders of Makes Sense, and CEO of Safe Surfer, Rory Birkbeck, met with Hon Minister Brooke van Velden in her office to discuss their concerns about the urgent need to block objectionable and illegal child sex abuse material (CSAM).

Objectionable and illegal sexual content, like CSAM, rape and bestiality is causing harm to tamariki and rangatahi in Aotearoa, and understandably parents are concerned about this. Makes Sense is campaigning for effective measures to better manage this horrific content (which is illegal under section 3 of the Films, Videos and Publications Classifications Act 1993).

Holly Brooker says, “Countries like Australia, the UK and France are all making moves to better protect children from sexual content online. While this content is illegal and objectionable in our legislation, there is a loophole in the system which means that millions of illegal videos are accessible. We’re calling on the government to strengthen the Digital Child Exploitation Filtering System (DCEFS) to ensure this abhorrent content isn’t able to be viewed as entertainment, further victimising children”.

“We are grateful for Hon Minister Brooke van Velden's willingness to engage on this topic and her willingness to consider all options for reducing access to illegal child sex abuse content online”, Holly says.

In March, Spark responded to Makes Sense's call for improved blocking of CSAM. They introduced the adoption of two filters that will help reduce exposure to malware, phishing, and child sexual abuse material (CSAM), including the adoption of the Internet Watch Foundation block list.

Jo Robertson says, “We are really pleased Spark has responded with action. We are now looking for 2 Degrees and One NZ to follow suit, to ensure their customers are protected from this abhorrent and classified content. The DCEFS also needs to adopt this list for full protection”.

Rory Birkbeck, CEO of Safe Surfer says, ‘The innovation and evolution of AI has also given rise to harmful use, we’re at the tipping point of an explosion in AI-generated Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM). The Makes Sense Campaign is advocating for baseline measures and getting the basics right. Starting with blocking large amounts of known CSAM on the public web. It’s up to Internet Service Providers and Tech Safety Providers to come together in unity and to do the mahi alongside the Department of Internal Affairs in order to protect young Kiwis online in Aotearoa NZ.”

Research undertaken by the NZ Classifications Office in 2018 found that 67% (more than two-thirds) of NZ teens had seen sexual content, and 71% were not actively looking for this content. Furthermore, 69% of these teens had seen violence and aggression, while 72% saw non-consensual activity (1).

Jo Robertson says “Having spent 7 years researching the porn industry, its content, and young people's experience of it I am deeply concerned about the impact of children and young people viewing and having access to illegal sexual content online. Although violent content is illegal under the Act, young people around Aotearoa are still accidentally stumbling across it online”.

“Research on youth access to violent sexual content shows they are at greater risk of sexually aggressive behaviour, of risky sexual practices, negative self-esteem, and negative mental health outcomes. Furthermore, anecdotal reports of children being exposed to illegal behaviour showed a variety of PTSD symptoms such as insomnia, withdrawal, flashbacks, and mood changes. We are deeply concerned about the online landscape for our young people”, Jo Robertson says.

Recently the UK Children Commissioner released a report, ‘Evidence on pornography's influence on harmful sexual behaviour among children, 2023’ which says, "Children and young people can and do stumble across harmful material online. This is unacceptable and needs to change...pornography of all themes and categories – including violent, degrading and even illegal material – has been a single tap away for their entire childhood and adolescence.” (2)

Holly Brooker says, “Parenting in this digital era is complex, and the onus cannot be solely on parents to keep our kids safe online. We need parents, the Government, Internet Service Providers and content providers to all invest in playing an active role to ensure that illegal sexual content is not able to be easily found, particularly by children. We are years behind the rest of the world in terms of safety measures online and we have to act fast.”



Makes Sense is advocating for better protection of our tamariki and rangatahi from illegal sexual content, including Child Sex Abuse Material (CSAM), which is easily accessible online.

Jo Robertson – Qualified Sex Therapist and Porn Researcher. She has experience as a children’s and adolescent trauma therapist, sexual health educator, and resource development for The Light Project. The Light Project equips young people, whanau and professionals to navigate the new porn landscape.

Holly Jean Brooker – PR Consultant and Parenting Presenter. She currently supports Parenting Place with PR/media, resource development and parenting courses. She is currently undertaking a Master of Public Policy at the University of Auckland. Previously, Holly was a high school teacher and health educator in South Auckland.

© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines




InfoPages News Channels


Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.