Common Questions

What is the intention of the filter?

The Digital Child Exploitation Filtering System has a very narrow purpose. It blocks access to known websites that contain child sexual abuse material.

It is designed to assist in combating the trade in child sexual abuse material by making it more difficult for persons with a sexual interest in children to access that material.

The filter system complements the information, education and enforcement activity undertaken by the Digital Child Exploitation Team of the Department of Internal Affairs.

The Department is working in partnership with New Zealand ISPs and offering them a choice to protect their customers from accessing these illegal websites inadvertently or otherwise.

How does it work?

The image shows when a request for a website is directed to the when the Digital Child Exploitation Filtering System for examination. When a person searches for a URL that is on the block list, the ISP will route the request to the Digital Child Exploitation Filtering System for examination. If the URL and IP address match a webpage on the block list, the person will be prevented from viewing the webpage. If a person searches for a URL that is not on the block list the ISP will connect them directly to their requested IP address.

The system works by filtering websites (URLs) against a list of URLs known to host child sexual abuse material (the block list). The block list is managed and maintained by the Department.

If the requested URL is not on the block list, the Internet Service Provider (ISP) will connect a user to their requested IP address. If a user requests a URL that matches one on the block list, the ISP will route the request to the DCEFS for examination.

The system then determines whether both the URL and the IP address match. This is an important step as an IP address can host multiple websites. If both the URL and the IP address match, the user will be presented with a Department of Internal Affairs landing page.

The purpose of the landing page is to:

  • inform the user that they have been prevented from accessing the requested URL and why;
  • provide the user with a method to anonymously appeal the block;
  • provide the user with links to websites where additional information and support services can be found.

How many ISPs are connected to the filter?

Most ISPs in New Zealand have voluntarily connected to the filter, which means that approximately 95% of New Zealand internet users are protected from inadvertently accessing child sexual abuse material.

For a full list of ISPs using the filter, see here.

How does the filter restrict offenders’ access to child sexual abuse material?

A great deal of traffic goes to websites containing child sexual abuse material. These websites often act as a gateway to other illegal sites, peer-to-peer services, or pay-per-view sites. By blocking access to these websites, it becomes more difficult for individuals with a sexual interest in children to access child sexual abuse material. Restricting access to this material also plays a crucial role in reducing the real-world consequences of this offending, as many of those who view such material will go on to physically offend against children.

Why don’t you shut the websites down?

The DCEFS is unable to remove illegal content from its location on the Internet as these websites are often hosted in other jurisdictions; not every legal system recognises the distribution of child abuse material 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.

However, the Department works closely with international enforcement agencies such as Interpol to shut down the sites and rescue children.

What is the Department’s response to concerns that the filter infringes on the civil liberties of New Zealand internet users?

No one has the right to view illegal content that focuses on the sexual abuse of children.

The adults who make, trade or view these in New Zealand are parties to a serious offence. They contribute to 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. Child sexual abuse material such as images or videos never go away once they are uploaded to the internet, and each time it is viewed those children are re-victimised.

What assurances are there that the filter will not be extended to block content other than that intended?

The Department has created an Independent Reference Group (IRG) to maintain oversight of the filter and ensure it is operated with integrity and adheres to the principles set down in the Code of Practice and described in the IRG Terms of Reference.

The Department works hard to ensure that the membership of the IRG is representative of enforcement agencies, Te Mana Whakaatu The Classification Office, representatives for ISPs, internet safety agencies and groups, agencies, and groups with an interest in the welfare of children and/or the prevention of sexual abuse, and agencies and groups with an interest in the preservation of human rights.

ISPs can voluntarily connect to the filter and can withdraw from using the service at any time.

How does the Independent Reference Group maintain oversight of the filter?

The Independent Reference Group (IRG) are provided data on the performance of the filter at meetings three times a year. Under the Code of Practice, the IRG may request inspector records and any other such information that may be lawfully provided to assist the IRG in fulfilling its function.

The Code of Practice is publicly available and can be viewed here: digital child exploitation code of practice -

What other activities is the Department involved in to tackle the issue of child sexual abuse material?

Alongside efforts to detect, investigate, and prosecute those who produce, distribute, and possess child sexual abuse material, Te Tari Taiwhenua Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) undertakes work to prevent child sexual exploitation and provide education to help keep New Zealanders safe online.

For a more detailed overview of our prevention and education work, see: Prevention and education