Number of child sexual abuse websites blocked this year already more than 2020's total

The number of child sexual abuse websites blocked by the Government this year is already far more than the total amount blocked in 2020. 

Data provided to Newshub under the Official Information Act shows the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) blocked 382 child sexual abuse websites in 2020, compared to 453 in the first six months of this year. 

The Government also appears to be ramping up its complaints. In 2020, 226 websites containing child sexual abuse material were removed following a request from DIA, compared to a whopping 616 so far this year. 

The DIA doesn't have the formal power to request takedowns of harmful content overseas. But there is a law change currently being considered that would give it the ability to issue take down notices to online platforms for objectionable material.

Because the majority of harmful content is hosted offshore, documents show the DIA has developed relationships with social media platforms and law enforcement agencies overseas to seek collaboration on removing harmful content. 

The DIA can request content be removed if it has been classified as objectionable by the Chief Censor. It can also request takedowns of content modified from something originally deemed objectionable, or content that breaches a platform's terms and conditions relating to terrorist or child exploitation material.

For harmful content hosted in New Zealand, the DIA can block it using the Digital Child Exploitation Filter System. It blocks access to known websites hosting child sexual abuse material and directs people to where they can go to get help.

The tool blocks more than 10,000 attempts to access known child abuse sites from New Zealand every month.

The number of child sexual abuse websites blocked by the Government this year is already far more than the total amount blocked in 2020.
The number of child sexual abuse websites blocked by the Government this year is already far more than the total amount blocked in 2020. Photo credit: Getty

Newshub Nation revealed at the weekend that in April, a global count by the Internet Watch Foundation found that thousands of links hosting child sexual abuse material were using the .nz domain.  

Blame has been pointed at New Zealand-based data storage website Mega - the evolution of Megaupload founded by Kim Dotcom - with Twitter being used to openly share child exploitation material using the hashtag #Megalinks. 

But Mega director Stephen Hall rubbished the claims, telling Newshub Nation the statistics were "misleading" and that "every platform in the world has child abuse material on it". 

He said Mega has a team that closes reported accounts, and in the past eight years have closed more than half a million of them for sharing child sexual abuse material. 

Not just child sexual abuse material

But child sexual abuse material isn't the only content the Government deems objectionable by law. Material that "promotes or encourages criminal acts or acts of terrorism" or "degrades or dehumanises or demeans any person" is also covered.  

Newshub can reveal that more than 85 links containing violent extremist material have been taken down following DIA investigations. It comes after the Government gave the DIA a $17 million boost in 2019 to support keeping Kiwis safe from online harm.  

The funding was provided in the wake of the March 15 Christchurch terror attack in 2019. The terrorist, motivated by white supremacy, live-streamed the atrocity, which led Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to establish the global Christchurch Call to combat online harm.  

But despite those efforts, violent extremist content motivated by racism is still flourishing on the internet, which is all too familiar for Māori Party co-leaders Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer. 

Māori Party co-leaders Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer.
Māori Party co-leaders Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

The Māori Party MPs are celebrating after charges were laid against a man who allegedly published offensive online material about Māori, deemed objectionable under the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act 1993.

The charge could lead to 14 years in prison, on top of three months and a $7000 fine for breaching the Human Rights Act 1993, by allegedly inciting racial disharmony. 

The MPs complained to the Independent Police Conduct Authority earlier this year after accusing the police of failing to properly investigate racist threats made against them in a video published by the alleged perpetrator. 

The video featured a masked man who at various times said Māori would be slaughtered in a "civil war," bragged about his killing skills and of training other white supremacists, and made threats on marae and homes of Māori.

"This ruling is a reflection of a slowly but surely maturing Aotearoa that threatens the very existence of white supremacy and our people are prepared to activate," said Ngarewa-Packer. 

"We consider this ruling as a win for Māori, and a win for our whanaunga from other whenua who have been subjected to racial violence and hate speech such as this. This ruling is a landmark decision in the future of race relations in Aotearoa."