About the Digital Child Exploitation Team

The Internet is a fantastic means of communication and source of information. Never has global communication been so easy and so beneficial. There is, however, a small minority of people who use the internet for harmful illegal activities, such as trading and distributing objectionable (illegal) material, including child sexual abuse material.

The sexual exploitation of children online continues to be a particularly significant and growing problem. In 2022, Aotearoa New Zealand received more than 29,440 reports of possible abuse from U.S based National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). This is in addition to referrals from platforms that aren’t required to refer content to NCMEC, and complaints or information provided by members of the public.

Established in 1996 and formerly known as the Censorship team, The Digital Child Exploitation Team (DCET) enforce the Films, Videos, Publications and Classification Act 1993 (the Classification Act). They have a reputation as a highly effective investigative team that protects New Zealanders by:

  • Focusing on the detection, investigation, and prosecution of individuals who produce, distribute, and possess child sexual abuse material and other illegal child abuse content.
  • Ensuring restricted content is accessed appropriately.
  • Removing the ability to access material that has been classified as objectionable and is considered injurious to the public good.
  • Managing the Digital Child Exploitation Filtering System which blocks access to websites that contain child sexual abuse material.

Given the borderless nature of the internet and child sexual exploitation, the team maintains strong working relationships with local and international law enforcement agencies. These relationships underpin the significant collaborative effort to tackle the spread of child sexual abuse material and to identify and safeguard victims.

One example of this was the team’s leadership of Operation H (media release 2 March 2022), the largest and most challenging online child exploitation operation led out of New Zealand to date. During the operation, the team led domestic and international law enforcement agencies to identify more than 90,000 online accounts that have possessed or traded child sexual abuse material. The two-year operation has resulted in hundreds of investigations and the safeguarding of 146 children around the world.

For more information on the Classification Act and the legal processes relevant to our operations, visit the legislation and legal processes page.

For more information about how the team works to prevent online child sexual exploitation, see the fact sheet below: