Explanatory statement

About the filter
Preventing digital child exploitation
Current legislation

About the filter 

The expansion of the Internet has led to many positive developments. Unfortunately, criminals, individuals and organised groups, are using the internet to produce, collect and distribute 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.

Children who are victims of this offending, abuse or exploitation suffer the psychological effects of their abuse for many years after the physical offending has ended. Every time the image, video or material is downloaded or shared or distributed, the child involved is re-victimised.

The Digital Child Exploitation Filtering System is designed to assist in combating the trade of child sexual abuse material by making it more difficult for people with a sexual interest in children to access it.

However, Website filtering is only effective after the fact and does not prevent the creation of illegal material or the sexual exploitation and abuse of children. The system is also unable to remove illegal content from its location on the Internet and cannot be used to prosecute the creators or consumers of this material.

Preventing digital child exploitation

The Filtering System complements the enforcement activity undertaken by the Department’s Digital Child Exploitation Team. This activity includes online investigations into the possession, distribution or creation of objectionable material and the prosecution of offenders.

The focus of international enforcement is identifying and rescuing victims, ensuring that these websites are quickly shutdown, and the owners prosecuted. However, not every legal system recognises the distribution of child abuse materials 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 10years 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(offences of strict liability relating to objectionable publications)

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)