New Zealand’s Privacy Commissioner has called on Facebook to report the names of anyone who has shared the chilling footage of the Christchurch terrorist attack which claimed 50 lives.
The social media giant has come under fire from John Edwards after the full 17 minute video of last Friday’s mass shooting was officially classified as objectionable.
The fast-tracked classification makes it illegal for anyone in New Zealand to view, possess or distribute the material in any form, including social media.
The ban comes a day after an 18-year-old New Zealand man accused of Facebook sharing a live-stream video of the Christchurch massacre was denied bail and faces up to 14 years behind bars.
The teenager also allegedly uploaded a photograph of one of the attacked mosques with the words ‘target acquired’.
An 18-year-old man (pictured) accused of Facebook sharing a live-stream video of the Christchurch massacre was refused bail in Christchurch District Court on Monday. It is it illegal for anyone in New Zealand to view, possess or distribute the material in any form
Mr Edwards urged Facebook to notify police of people who shared the horrific footage filmed by alleged Australian gunman Brenton Tarrant.
‘It’s not a conflict I think because at the core there is a very egregious offence to the dignity and the rights to privacy of the victims.’ Mr Edwards told radio station RNZ on Tuesday.
He also slammed Facebook for not taking enough action to make the platform safe in wake of the terrorist attack which was New Zealand’s worst mass shooting.
‘When the live-stream first became available, I was told there would mechanisms for reporting and there would be some kinds of moderation. There hasn’t been enough,’ Mr Edwards told NewsHub.
New Zealand’s Privacy Commissioner John Edwards (pictured) urged Facebook to notify police of people who has shared the horrific footage of Christchurch terrorist attack
Facebook told NewsHub it took down the alleged gunman’s footage after it was alerted by New Zealand Police and have since taken down 1.5 million copies.
The footage was deemed objectionable because of the depiction and promotion of extreme violence and terrorism, which could cause significant harm to those who view it, especially for victims and their families.
‘We’re aware that for a time after the attacks, this video was widely available on social media and many New Zealanders saw it, sometimes without meaning to,’ Chief Censor David Shanks said in statement.
‘Our priority is to mitigate the harm caused by this material to the New Zealand public, and in particular to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives in the Christchurch terror attacks.’
There are harsh penalties for sharing the banned material.
Police allege an 18-year-old shared a live-stream of a mass shooting across two mosques. Pictured: Armed officers patrol a cemetery near Muslim graves in Christchurch
‘If you didn’t know the material was objectionable and you were found in possession of it, a maximum fine of $10,000 could apply,’ Deputy Chief Censor Jared Mullen told the New Zealand Herald.
‘If you knew the content was objectionable and were found in possession of it – the legal test here is ‘knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that the publication is objectionable’ – a maximum term of 14 years imprisonment could apply.’
The Department of Internal Affairs’ Digital Safety Unit are providing advice to media organisations to support a lawful and principled approach to reporting on the incident.
The lengthy 74 page ‘manifesto’ document released by Tarrant prior to the mass shooting is being reviewed separately and will take more time to consider.
The teenager accused of Facebook sharing a live-stream video of the Christchurch massacre appeared in Christchurch District Court on Monday.
He was granted an interim name suppression order, but was denied bail by Judge Stephen O’Driscoll.
Police have said the teenager – who cannot yet be named – was not involved in the attack on two mosques.
The young man has also been charged with allegedly posting to social media a photograph of one of the South Island mosques being attacked with the message ‘target acquired’ along with other chat messages ‘inciting extreme violence’.
The details behind the alleged Facebook poster’s bail decision cannot be published.
He will reappear in court in April. If found guilty, he could face up to 14 years’ jail.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (pictured in parliament on Tuesday) has contacted Facebook to express concerns about the sharing of extremist live-streaming material
Facebook earlier said it had taken down 1.5 million copies of footage of the shooting that had been live-streamed by Tarrant in the 24 hours after the carnage.
Authorities and telecommunications companies last week also scrambled to have the videos taken down and urged the public not to share them.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she had contacted Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg to voice her concerns about the social media giant’s sharing of extremist live-streaming material.
‘I haven’t spoken to her directly but she has reached out, an acknowledgment of what has occurred here in New Zealand,’ she told reporters on Monday.
‘This is an issue that I will look to be discussing directly with Facebook’.
Ms Ardern also confirmed she would push to reform the nation’s gun laws, which haven’t changed since 1992.
Meanwhile, several websites including 4chan have been blocked by major Australian telcos for continuing to host footage of the Christchurch terrorist attack.
Telstra confirmed on Tuesday it had blocked access to 4chan, 8chan and Voat, the blog Zerohedge and video hosting platform Liveleak.
‘We understand this may inconvenience some legitimate users of these sites, but these are extreme circumstances and we feel this is the right thing to do,’ Telstra networks and IT executive Nikos Katinakis said in a statement.
Optus and Vodafone declined to name which domains they blocked but the same platforms also failed to load on their networks on Tuesday afternoon.
The ban on 4chan was lifted a few hours later.
Vodafone said while blocking requests normally came from the courts or law enforcement agencies ‘this was an extreme case which we think requires an extraordinary response’.
It is illegal in New Zealand to to view, possess or distribute the chilling footage in any form, including social media. Pictured are the floral tributes to the 50 people who lost their lives
‘While there were discussions at an industry level about this issue, this is a decision Vodafone Australia came to independently,’ a spokeswoman said in a statement.
Optus said it had blocked the domains after ‘reflecting on community expectations’.
Another large internet service provider, TPG, has been contacted for comment.
A spokesman for the eSafety commissioner said she did not provide ‘any direction or advice to Australian ISPs in regard to the blocking of websites’.
The office does not have the authority to direct ISPs to block domains but can take action to remove content shared on Australian-hosted websites.
The commissioner is encouraging social media users to report the video and any content supporting the attacks directly to the platforms.
New Zealand gun laws
Appliants for a gun owner’s licence in New Zealand are not legally required to establish a genuine reason to possess a standard hunting or sports shooting firearm, but specific reasoning is required for pistols and Military Style Semi-Automatic weapons. That reason could be pest control.
There’s no restriction on the number of guns or quantity of ammunition a licensed gun owner can have.
An applicant for a firearm licence in New Zealand must pass a background check which considers criminal, mental health, medical, addiction and domestic violence. Third-party character references are required.
Authorities are required to interview an applicant’s partner or ex-partner or next of kin before issuing a gun licence.
Gun owners must re-apply and re-qualify every 10 years.
An A category rifle, which requires only a standard licence, can legally carry a seven-round magazine. This weapon can be illegally converted into a semi-automatic weapon if that magazine is replaced with, say, a 30-round magazine and a pistol grip added to the stock so gunfire can be sprayed from the hip.
Sources: GunPolicy.org and its founding director, Associate Professor Philip Alpers of Sydney University
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