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New Tools To Deal With Harmful Illegal Material Online

New tools to help deal with online material that is illegal have been welcomed by Te Tari Taiwhenua Department of Internal Affairs.

A new Act – the Films, Videos, and Publications (Urgent Interim Classification and Prevention of Online Harm) Amendment Act – has received Royal Assent and criminalises the livestreaming of objectionable material and introduces new enforcement tools.

Jared Mullen, Director Digital Safety, says: “The Department will be able to take fast and effective steps to prevent and mitigate harms caused by objectionable material online. In the past, we have had to rely on voluntary requests to online content hosts to remove this type of harmful material.

“We will work with internet service providers and online content hosts to swiftly and consistently take action against illegal material and prevent potential harm to New Zealanders.”

Viewing objectionable material can lead to offline harms such as isolation, depression and anxiety and, in some cases, can lead to physical harm. It also re-victimises people shown in the material.

The need for these tools came out of the tragedy of the Christchurch terror attacks.

Mr Mullen says the Amendment Act doesn’t alter what is or isn’t ‘objectionable’. The definition of objectionable remains the same and is clearly defined in law: it refers to material that is illegal to create, possess or distribute.

“It is the most abhorrent type of content and includes violent extremist or terrorist material and images of child sexual exploitation.”

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The new tools add to existing measures available to the Department, such as the Digital Child Exploitation Filtering system, which is run in partnership with New Zealand internet service providers. Protecting New Zealanders from online harms is one of the ways we ensure hapū, iwi and communities are safe, resilient and thriving.

The Act amends the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act 1993 and becomes law on 1 February 2022.

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