NZers concerned about harmful online content

Young people are living more of their lives online, the acting chief censor says.

New Zealanders lack confidence in social media companies to keep them safe and are highly concerned about youth being exposed to harmful or inappropriate content.

A Classification Office report about what New Zealanders see on screen and online shows people support regulation of harmful online content.

"More and more people are online and, in particular, young people are living more of their lives online," says acting chief censor Rupert Ablett-Hampson.

"We also know that that online life now includes the consumption of content on many more platforms, including social media platforms like Tik Tok and Instagram, and there isn't substantive regulation over that content at the moment."

The report found 83 per cent of people are concerned about harmful or inappropriate content in social media, video-sharing sites or other websites.

Ablett-Hampson says the survey data shows a "significant shift" between people being able to make choices in what "regulated media", like television shows and movies, is consumed and the challenges of preventing exposure to harm through other mediums.

"I thought it was telling that 33 per cent of people had seen content that directly promotes or encourages violence towards others on things like race and culture and religion and sexuality," he says.

Similarly, 20 per cent of the survey's respondents have seen online content that encourages self-harming behaviours.

The research came at a good time because the government has commissioned a review of media and online content regulation, says Ablett-Hampson.

He says it aims to design and implement a new approach to content regulation that minimises the risk of harm to New Zealanders.

"People have told us there's a lot that can be done to make things better including stronger regulation, better technical solutions, education, and tech/social media companies to take more responsibility and we hope these insights will help inform the government review."

Ablett-Hampson says the report is more directed towards children and young people "because that's the focus" of the Classification Office.

However, he "completely" agrees that all New Zealanders are vulnerable to harmful content exposure.

"I think that a lot of the misinformation that resulted in the Covid hesitancy, and the protests at Parliament ... arose directly as a result of material that was imported into New Zealand via social media platforms."

Online harm is "particularly prevalent" in New Zealand, with some "really direct experiences", he says, which includes things like the 15 March mosque attacks.

On Tuesday, Ablett-Hampson banned a pseudo-documentary using extensive footage from a livestream of the attacks, which also had a voiceover claiming the attacks were fabricated.

In an interim decision, he classified it as objectionable content and it is an offence for anyone to download, view or share it.

The 33-minute-long video acted as a second part to a piece that was banned in February.

A final decision on the content's ban will be issued within 20 days.


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1 Comment

No limits.

Posted on 01-07-2022 13:10 | By morepork

Although I fiercely believe in Free Speech and educating people to be able to have someone’s opinion (even when it is disgusting...), and not be crushed by it, I think that we have reached a point where what used to be "common decency" no longer exists. Anyone who could dramatize, glorify, and fabricate events around the mosque attack, with the object of publication in ANY media, should definitely be suppressed. The reality is that most of the population are simply not equipped to process and deal with this , and neither should they need to be. So the only option is suppression. We have moved into a world of social media and it is impossible to protect kids from it. The best we can do is teach them to filter what they see and think for themselves. Schools should be teaching kids to handle social and mass media.

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