Porn crackdown: The Government's moves to stop kids accessing adult material

The Government is considering sweeping changes to rules governing pornography, saying everything is on the table. 

Advice to the Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin obtained by Newshub under the Official Information Act suggests the current laws around classification and broadcasting legislation are out-of-date.

"Current classification and broadcasting legislation was developed for a pre-internet era and classification of online content, including pornography has many challenges," it reads.

The documents say the archaic laws are putting people at risk.

"Gaps in the current media regulatory framework mean that New Zealand consumers are at risk. This is particularly the case for children and young people. For example, under our legislation, Subscription Video on-Demand (SVOD) material delivered online such as Netflix is not covered."

The different options being looked at that could make it more difficult to access explicit content include:

  • Online Public Areas Safety Bill: Require all retail shops, schools, businesses and public areas which provide free Wi-Fi to the public to ensure appropriate filtering. 
  • Online Child Safety Bill: Require internet service providers to make available to all subscribers technology which will allow the parents to monitor and control child's access. 
  • Educating Parents on the Harms of Pornography Bill: Directing the state department of education to take a direct role in educating parents of enrolled students on the harms of pornographic material. 
  • Government Accountability Trust and Etiquette Bill: Require Govemment agencies to adopt policies that prohibit users from accessing the material.
  • School Internet Filtering Accountability Bill: Require schools to adopt policies and implement filters to protect students from pornographic material while using school devices or networks. 
  • R18 access to porn websites: Residents will have to provide age ID to have access. 
  • Expanding Digital Child Exploitation Filtering System: Internal Affairs already has a targeted filter around child exploitation, child slavery, child sex offences and paedophilia.

The advice warned any future reforms and attempts to restrict access online content "will need to balance freedom of speech considerations".

Martin told Newshub work on updating the law was delayed due to the extensive work the Department of Internal Affairs had to do following the March 15 attacks. Now it's a priority.

"I think we need to get there urgently and make sure our censorship laws are up to speed to protect our children and young people. There is the also the Broadcasting Act that is over 20 years old, that's a larger piece of work and another minister has responsibility for that.

Five draft laws have been proposed to the Minister by Family First, which include ensuring public Wi-Fi has filtering capability and stopping children from having access at school.

Martin isn't ruling anything out.

"I definitely don't want to discount any ideas from anybody that might better protect our children and young people from what is this avalanche of pornography that they are being bombarded with currently."

Tracey Martin.
Tracey Martin. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

New Zealand is looking to the United Kingdom as an example. From January 2020 new changes come into effect which mean UK residents will have to provide age ID to access porn websites. The British Government's decision is part of the Digital Economy Act 2017 to stop children inadvertently viewing explicit material, but the rollout has been repeatedly delayed. Martin says if "they work out the nuts and bolts it's definitely an option for us".

The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) operates a web filter that blocks child sexual abuse websites in New Zealand. The agreement it has with the filter technology provider limits DIA to only be able to use the filter to block child sexual exploitation content. Officials warned that expanding the scope of the filter would be 'highly contentious and may potentially require legislation'.

"Whatever we do we're going to have to come out and talk to the New Zealand public about. Knowing there have been some workable options or suggested options that have come from them give us part of that solid base I think we can do to start that piece of work before we come out to the New Zealand public."

Martin pushed back on the idea of parents paying extra to internet service providers to provide a safe service or family channel which would automatically block inappropriate material.

"I don't think parents should have to pay more money to keep their children safe. In my view, the onus is on the service provider to make sure the service they are selling to the consumer is safe for every member of their family."

The Internal Affairs Minister hopes a decision can be made over the next four to six weeks if legislative change is needed, and then get suggested changes into a draft document to take to Cabinet and the public.

"I believe this is at a pivotal place for our young people. We've ignored it because we didn't want to talk about - when I say we I mean my generation and those older than me - and we had this idea that it's what it used to be like in the 1970s and 1980s."

'We have to move quickly'

A report by the Chief Censor in December 2018 revealed two thirds of 14-17-year-olds have been exposed to porn. 72 percent of those who'd watched it said they saw things that made them uncomfortable while 69 percent said they have seen violence or aggression.

"We have to move quickly and as quickly as possible and in the most appropriate way to make sure we are protecting our children and young people," Martin said.

A 'porn working party' has been set up to investigate the impacts of New Zealanders' use of pornography in the modern digital environment, coordinate work and advice relevant to this issue between agencies and to provide a centre of knowledge of Government on the subject and advice on potential policy response. The Office of Film and Literature Classification leads the group, and other agencies involved are Netsafe, the Ministry of Health, Internal Affairs, the Ministry for Women, the Ministry of Social Development, ACC and the Ministry of Education.

Newshub.

 

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