Government urged to do more to block people from viewing footage of Christchurch mosque shootings

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 18: A police officer stands guard near Al Noor mosque on March 18, 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand. 50 people were killed, and dozens are still injured in hospital after a gunman opened fire on two Christchurch mosques on Friday, 15 March. The accused attacker, 28-year-old Australian, Brenton Tarrant, has been charged with murder and remanded in custody until April 5. The attack is the worst mass shooting in New Zealand's history. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty

The Government is being urged to do more to block people from viewing the video of the March 15 mosque attacks.

Two years after it was made, efforts to stop its spread such as the 'Christchurch Call' do not appear to be working and a simple search using an alternative search engine to Google can take a person straight to the footage uploaded by the gunman to glorify his actions.

RNZ has chosen not to name the alternative search engine, to avoid pointing anybody else towards the video.

The video had, by publication of this article, received at least 128,000 views.

Internal Affairs, which is responsible for policing such content, was informed about its existence a week ago.

Muslim Association of Canterbury spokesperson Abdigani Ali said witnesses and the bereaved were already on edge leading up to the two-year anniversary and he was worried they may inadvertently stumble upon the footage.

"To be honest, my first reaction was utter shock, that this content is available on the internet. You know, we don't want to re-traumatise our community. And then we also don't want other people in the wider community to view this content. It is very disturbing content."

While sharing or even viewing the video could land people in prison in New Zealand, the jurisdiction of Internal Affairs does not stretch overseas to the search engines and websites that have been making it available.

Ali said there needed to be a filter applied to the video in the same way child abuse was filtered out by the Government here, to prevent it reaching these shores.

"We don't want to make the internet, you know, a place where everybody is censored but at the same time we don't want, you know, a terrorist attack of that magnitude, which was one of New Zealand's darkest days, to be available online.

"So, I think that's a job for the Government to kind of differentiate which is which and hopefully make the internet a safe place for everyone."

Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker said while legislation before Parliament did allow for such a filter, the details around how it would work or what it would filter out had yet to be revealed.

Voluntary efforts such as the 'Christchurch Call' had gone some way towards cleaning up the likes of Google and Microsoft which had all invested in stamping out harmful content when it turned up, he said.

"In terms of being able to say that the internet is clean of harmful content, no, we're a very long way from that and maybe a step closer than we were a few years ago but it's such an insignificant step really."

Cocker said there were about thirty alternative search engines similar to the one where the video could be found and most did not have the resources or the will to do anything about it.

He had this advice for those wanting to avoid inadvertently stumbling across the footage:

"I'm always very cautious about recommending or not recommending any of the different products that are available, but I can say that the major search engines work with Netsafe and they work with other organisations in New Zealand and that makes them a safer place for New Zealanders to be."

The search engine where the video was found said it was only a "downstream provider" and the content first had to come through Microsoft. It had contacted Microsoft and asked that the video be blocked.

Internal Affairs said it was last week made aware of more than one search engine where the video could be found, along with various websites that were hosting it.

It said it was talking with them about removing it, but not all were willing to cooperate.

"We appreciate that this is a painful and difficult time for the Muslim communities in Aotearoa and the existence of this video only heightens this" director of digital safety Jared Mullen said.

"Our digital safety team at Internal Affairs will work hard with our partners to remove illegal material from the online environment wherever we can", he said.