Terrorist and extremist online content to be treated like child sexual exploitation material

Terrorist and violent extremist content online will now be treated by the Government in a similar way to child exploitation material. 

Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the change on Monday, and said $17 million has been allocated to "stop and stamp out" the material. 

It will be spent on doubling the investigative, forensic, intelligence and prevention work of the Department of Internal Affairs, with a focus on violent extremist content. 

The ministers said laws will be "strengthened", and the Chief Censor David Shanks' current work assessing and making decisions about harmful content will be bolstered. 

Martin, who has responsibility for the Government's Countering Violent Extremism online work programme, reflected on the Christchurch terror attack, when the alleged shooter live-streamed the atrocity online. 

"The ease and speed with which the March 15 terrorist attack spread online showed we need to improve our systems to respond just as swiftly."

Martin said the changes will mean extremist material can be targeted in a similar way to child sexual exploitation material, by working quickly with online content hosts to remove it as quickly as possible. 

She said the Department of Internal Affairs will combat the material online by investigating and prosecuting those committing offences through "both proactive detection and working with international and domestic partners".

It follows progress made on Ardern's Christchurch Call to Action at a United Nations meeting in New York last month, where dozens of new signatories were added. 

"Our online world must be a force for good where we can exchange ideas, share technology, and maintain civil liberties, while protecting New Zealanders from objectionable content," Ardern said on Monday. 

"Countering violent extremism online is an important part of our response to the March 15 terrorist attacks, following on from gun reform, the Royal Commission of Inquiry and the Christchurch Call."

Last week Ardern highlighted the importance of the Christchurch Call in the wake of a shooting in Germany that was live-streamed online. 

The Chief Censor deemed the footage illegal in New Zealand under the Films, Videos & Publications Classification Act 1993. 

He said last week while it was not filmed in New Zealand, and the two fatalities were fewer than the 51 in Christchurch, it was still important to make sure the footage wasn't spread online. 

"While this terrorist has killed fewer people the video will still be seen as instructional in terms of learning from it in order to carry out other attacks."

Ardern has said she does not underestimate the scale of that challenge for world leaders in trying to stop people from uploading violent ad extremist material online. 

But she said there is "space for that development to occur, and that's ultimately where we need to also focus our attention".