Countering Violent Extremism Online

Note: If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 111 now.

Violent extremism refers to an individual or group who justifies the use of violence, or advocates for others to use violence in order to radically change the nature of government, religion or society.

This type of violence is often targeted at groups who violent extremists perceive as threatening or undermining their world view.

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The government’s role in countering violent extremism

The NZ government is focused on reducing the threat of terrorism and violent extremism.  Countering violent extremism is a complex, long-term challenge. Multiple government organisations, law enforcement agencies, civil society, academia and communities all have a role to play.

DIA’s role in countering violent extremism

The Digital Safety team at the Department of Internal Affairs (‘DIA’) is responsible for keeping New Zealanders safe from online harm by responding to and preventing the spread of objectionable material that promotes or encourages violent extremism.

As part our of our role we:

  • respect and support the right of New Zealanders to lawfully express their opinions and participate online;
  • understand the environment in which violent extremist material is created and shared online;
  • work with government and community, in Aotearoa and around the world, to keep New Zealanders safe from harm;
  • prevent, deter and, where necessary, prosecute those spreading illegal, objectionable material online.

Our work aligns with the Christchurch Call actions to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.

The Christchurch Call is a commitment by Governments and tech companies to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online. It includes a number of voluntary commitments by government, the online service providers and civil society to reduce the threat of violent extremism within society and curb the spread of harmful content online.

Understanding the New Zealand Online Extremist Ecosystem

In 2021 we released a report showing the scope, nature and scale of online extremism in New Zealand – the first introspective research of its kind in Aotearoa.

The report, Understanding the New Zealand Online Extremist Ecosystem, highlights that online extremism trends in New Zealand are broadly consistent with trends in countries like the USA, Australia and the UK.

It also shows that far-right extremist ideologies and conspiracy theories such as QAnon are much more common here than other ideologies. 

The report is part of the Government’s response to recommendation six of the Royal Commission of Inquiry’s report, which stated the need for an improved domestic picture of the challenge New Zealand faces from online extremism, how it has developed and emerging trends.

The report will help government agencies working to prevent and counter online extremism, including the Department, better understand the scope, nature and scale of the issue. This information has not been available in the past.

The report is supported by a methodological discussion paper. In publishing the methodological, conceptual and ethical thinking and decisions that underlie the findings, we hope that the lessons might be of some value and use to the research communities across the world that have similar research questions in mind.

The reports were commissioned from ISD, an internationally renowned think-tank. The reports used data from publicly available social media, online forums, and websites. The focus was on content and not on individuals or content producers.