The Department’s response to the Christchurch terrorism attack video – Background information and FAQs

Background information

The Digital Safety group at the Department is responsible for the regulation of the Films, Videos, Publications and Classifications Act. This act exists to prevent harm that can be caused by publications (electronic file or physical publication); in instances such as the video file of the terrorist attack being made available online, the need to protect people from harm is clear. Many people who had seen the footage for example, are experiencing significant distress – this includes our children and young people.

The ban of the footage of the event and subsequently of the ‘manifesto’ is in no way an attempt to block freedom of speech nor stop the public from being able to engage with the reality of this horrific event.

The Digital Safety group really encourages people to think before they share anything online – everyone deals with things differently and the potential for harm from one ‘post’ or ‘share’ is significant. Also consider that what you ‘share’ may be an offence.

Remember that all people deserve to be respected and in an online world where your reach is far greater than in person it’s important to check yourself.

Video of the Christchurch terrorist incident is objectionable

The terrorist attack in Christchurch on 15th March 2019 is a very real tragedy with real victims and we strongly encourage people not to share, host, or view the video. The Department of Internal Affairs (the Department) has issued a press release stating this position.

The content of the video file is disturbing and harmful for people to see. Furthermore, the video file depicting the terrorist attack in Christchurch (the video file) is an objectionable publication under the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 (the Act) as it depicts and promotes extreme violence and terrorism. Accessing, possessing, or distributing (including sharing or hosting or showing other people) the video file are criminal offences against New Zealand law. The Chief Censor has now also confirmed that the video of the attack is officially classified as objectionable.

How to apply for an exemption:

Office of Film & Literature Classification (OFLC) -  Christchurch attacks – press release includes an application form for exemptions. If you have any questions about this process, please contact the Classification Office: | 0508 236 767 | 04 471 6770.

The Department has been working with ISPs and social media platform providers

The Department has been in contact with key Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who have voluntarily blocked sites or forums actively hosting or encouraging the distribution of the video file.  The Department has confirmed with the ISPs that the video is objectionable. 

The Department has also informed social media platform providers that the video file is an objectionable publication and therefore an offence in New Zealand under the Act to view it (including watching it online without downloading it) or to distribute it (including hosting it, sharing it, or linking or showing it to other people). The Department considers this to include news media edits of the video file. 

Currently, the Department’s Digital Safety Group is monitoring and actively seeking out sites hosting the content to seek its voluntary removal. This includes mainstream social media sites and online platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.  Online platforms, particularly large social media platforms, have responded positively to this and are voluntarily removing material as it is objectionable and does not align with their own Terms and Conditions.

Media use of the video 

The Department considers media to have an important role in minimising harm to New Zealanders through reporting appropriately and encourages media to act responsibly in relation to the video.  The Department is not supportive of media using an objectionable file, even in a cut down version, in their reporting on this matter. Media are not exempt from the requirements of the Act.

The ‘manifesto’ of the terrorist has been classified as Objectionable

This means that it is also illegal to hold a copy, share / distribute it under NZ Law.  This is considered a harmful publication that promotes, encourages and justifies acts of murder and terrorist violence against identified groups of people. If you have had a copy, you must now delete it. 

If on social media, please report the content and if in another forum or you don’t receive a satisfactory response through social media please send it to – please ensure you include the web address when sending your complaint through.

The Office of Film and Literature Classification has a website that people can access in relation to classification decisions

Frequently asked questions

What is the meaning of “objectionable”?

The Act states that a “publication” (which includes an electronic or computer file) is objectionable if it describes, depicts, expresses, or otherwise deals with matters such as sex, horror, crime, cruelty, or violence in such a manner that the availability of the publication is likely to be injurious to the public good. 

This includes a publication, such as the video of the Christchurch terror attack, that depicts the infliction of serious physical harm or significant cruelty, demeans the dignity of the victims depicted, or promotes or encourages criminal acts or acts of terrorism. 

What actions has the Department taken?

The Department:

  • Acted swiftly on Friday 15 March in its consideration of the video and issued a press release informing members of the public that it was likely to be objectionable and an offence to watch, share and/or possess.
  • Has provided advice to ISPs and electronic service providers (ESPs) when they sought clarification about the legal status of the video file. 
  • Has provided ISPs with information relevant to the hosting of objectionable material.
  • Has been working closely with national and international stakeholders and law enforcement agencies to stop footage of the Christchurch attack from being circulated and further disseminated. 

Which websites are being censored or blocked by ISPs in New Zealand?

The Department has provided ISPs with information relevant to the hosting of objectionable material. The Department understands that ISPs are currently blocking websites under their individual Terms and Conditions.  No websites based in New Zealand are currently being blocked by the direct actions of the Department. 

Have prosecutions been brought against people who have distributed or possessed objectionable publications within New Zealand?

Yes, there have been prosecutions for sharing, distributing and possessing terrorism related and other objectionable material publications under the Act. 

Currently, the New Zealand Police are undertaking prosecutions regarding offences involving this video file.  The Department will likely be progressing prosecutions under the Act and will consider these on a case by case basis.

Does my ISP have the right to block my access to a social media platform?

The Department is aware that ISPs have their own Terms and Conditions of Use, and this may provide ISPs with an ability to restrict access in some circumstances.  It must be noted that this is an exceptional circumstance and only those sites actively sharing and/or promoting the video footage are being blocked.

When will ISPs stop blocking websites and/or social media platforms?

This is a matter for individual ISPs to consider, the Department suggests you contact your ISP for more information. 

For further information on how to stay safe online

  • Netsafe – New Zealand’s independent, non-profit online safety organisation that provides practical tools, support and advice for managing online challenges, including cyberbullying, and helps people stay safe.
  • Office of Film and Literature Classification – The government agency that classifies films, games and other media and provides research and information to help people make good decisions about the media they consume.
  • Other useful resources – The Department’s Censorship page has a selection of useful links to other websites related to internet safety.

How to make a complaint

Censorship – To report on an instance of the footage of the Christchurch terror attack or if you are concerned that you have seen something that is objectionable, make a complaint using the online form or by email

Netsafe – Use the Netsafe form to report any online safety and security incident (please include the URL link), including complaints under the Harmful Digital Communications Act. 

New Zealand Police – The Police are encouraging anyone with information about the Christchurch shooting incident to report it (NZ Police).

For further support

If you or someone you know has viewed the video and are struggling with what you have seen please visit mental health advice. Helplines that could be useful:

  • Free call or text 1737 - any time, 24 hours a day. You’ll get to talk to (or text with) a trained counsellor.
  • Lifeline (open 24/7) – 0800 543 354
  • Depression Helpline (open 24/7) – 0800 111 757
  • Healthline (open 24/7) – 0800 611 116
  • Samaritans (open 24/7) – 0800 726 666
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) –  0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.
  • Youthline (open 24/7) – 08 00 376 633. You can also text 234 for free between 8am and midnight, or email
  • 0800 WHATSUP children's helpline – phone 0800 9428 787 between 1pm and 10pm on weekdays and from 3pm to 10pm on weekends. Online chat is available from 7pm to 10pm every day.
  • Kidsline (open 24/7) – 0800 543 754. This service is for children aged 5 to 18.

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