Explanatory statement

About the filter

The expansion of the Internet has led to many positive developments. However, the fact remains that criminals, individuals as well as organised groups, are also using this technology as a means of producing, collecting and distributing images of child sexual abuse.

Child sexual abuse images are not “just images” but evidence of actual criminal activity. The possession and distribution of this material creates an international market that supports and encourages further abuse. The children who are victims of this activity sometimes suffer the psychological effects of their abuse for many years after the physical offending has ended. Images that are distributed on the Internet never go away. With each download the person involved is re-victimised.

The Digital Child Exploitation Filtering System is designed to assist in combating the trade in child sexual abuse images by making it more difficult for persons with a sexual interest in children to access that material. The Filtering System will complement the enforcement activity undertaken by the Censorship Team of the Department of Internal Affairs. This activity includes online investigations into the trading of objectionable images on peer to peer networks and the prosecution of offenders.

Website filtering is only partially effective in combating the trade in child sexual abuse images. In particular website filtering is effective only after the fact and does not prevent the creation of illegal material nor, in the case of images of child sexual abuse, the exploitation of children. The system also will not remove illegal content from its location on the Internet, nor prosecute the creators or intentional consumers of this material.

The focus of international enforcement will continue to be the identification and rescue of victims, and ensuring that these websites are quickly shutdown and their owners prosecuted. However, not every legal system recognises the distribution of child abuse images as a serious crime, and few enforcement agencies around the world have the resources and training to carry out online investigations and the forensic examination of computers.

Current legislation

The Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 deems a publication to be objectionable if it promotes or supports, or tends to promote or support the exploitation of children, or young persons, or both, for sexual purposes (section 3(2)(a)).

The Act provides that possession of an objectionable publication with knowledge or reason to believe it is objectionable is a serious offence carrying a term of imprisonment not exceeding 5 years or a fine not exceeding $50,000.

The offence of distributing an objectionable publication, including over the Internet, with knowledge that the publication is objectionable carries a maximum term of imprisonment of up to 10 years. Distributing includes making a publication available for others to access, such as on a website or through file sharing.

New Zealand law contains no provision that specifically authorises the operation of a website filtering system or to require ISPs to connect to such a system. Participation in the Digital Child Exploitation Filtering System by ISPs is therefore voluntary.

For more information please read our media release: Web filter will focus soley on child sex abuse images (16.07.09)