New Zealanders will be better protected from online harm through a Bill introduced to Parliament today, says Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin.
“The internet brings many benefits to society but can also be used as a weapon to spread harmful and illegal content and that is what this legislation targets,” Minister Martin said.
“Our laws need to reflect the digital age and the Government has worked with industry partners to create this Bill, which will ensure law enforcement and industry partners can rapidly prevent and fight harm from illegal online content.”
The Films, Videos, and Publications Classification (Urgent Interim Classification of Publications and Prevention of Online Harm) Amendment Bill amends the current Act which dates from 1993.
Under the Bill:
- the Chief Censor will be able to more quickly notify the public of objectionable content that could cause high levels of harm;
- the livestreaming of objectionable content, as happened during the Christchurch terror attacks, will be a criminal offence;
- the Government will be able to issue take down notices to online content hosts through an Inspector of Publications, requiring the removal of specific links to objectionable online content;
- social media companies will come within the scope of current laws on objectionable content; and
- legal parameters will be in place for a web filter to block objectionable content in the future, subject to further policy development and consultation.
The legislation supports commitments under the Christchurch Call, and complements extra funding announced last year to build capability in the Department of Internal Affairs and for the Chief Censor’s office to prevent and counter violent extremist content online.
“This Bill is part of a wider government programme to address violent extremism,” Minister Martin said. “This is about protecting New Zealanders from harmful content they can be exposed to on their everyday social media feeds.”
The Bill will go through a standard select committee process to allow public participation. If passed, most changes will come into effect in mid-2021.
Contact: Richard Ninness 021 892 536
Notes for editors
- The Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 (the Classification Act) governs censorship in New Zealand. Under the Classification Act, it is an offence to make, possess, supply or distribute an objectionable publication (including digital content).
- Content is deemed to be objectionable if the availability of a given publication or digital content is likely to be injurious to the public good. Examples of content that could be considered include depictions of torture, sexual violence, child sexual abuse, or terrorism.
- The Classification Act contains mechanisms to deter people from creating or sharing this illegal content, to allow authorities to investigate those who do and to prosecute them where appropriate.
- Cabinet agreed on 16 December 2019 to policy proposals to amend the Classification Act and to draft the Bill.
- Further consultation took place with key industry stakeholders on an exposure draft Bill, to ensure the changes would be workable in practice.