Government introduces law to erect a firewall around New Zealand

The livestreaming of objectionable content could become illegal as the Government introduces a law which allows it to erect a firewall around New Zealand’s internet.

Industry group Internet NZ says the Government should not grant itself powers to restrict access to parts of the internet in hope of curbing the spread of violent extremism online.

Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin introduced the Film, Videos and Publications Amendment Bill into the House on Tuesday, saying it would help the law enforcement and the telecommunications’ industry prevent the internet being “used as a weapon to spread harmful and illegal content”.

The prospective law, a response to the March 15 terror attack in which the murder of 51 Muslim worshippers was broadcast live on Facebook, includes the ability for the government to create “web filters” which could block certain websites from being viewed in New Zealand.

It also allows the Chief Censor to issue interim orders to deem content published online objectionable, makes livestreaming objectionable content a crime, and includes $200,000 fines for the likes of Facebook and Google if they don’t adhere to “take-down” orders.

The bill allows for the Department of Internal Affairs of create an “electronic system”, or a web filter, to prevent access to objectionable publications on the internet.

“This bill is part of a wider government programme to address violent extremism … This is about protecting New Zealanders from harmful content they can be exposed to on their everyday social media feeds,” Martin said.

Internet NZ chief executive Jordan Carter said the bill had some good aspects, such as the interim orders allowing the Chief Censor to quickly deem content objectionable.

He said the current settings had delayed the chief censor’s decision to label the livestream of the mosque shooting objectionable.

But the prospect of a web filter raised concerns, as it was unlike the existing filters for child exploitation content, which isn’t legislated and has independent oversight.

“The way that this bill leaves a whole heap of discretion for the secretary of internal affairs about how it would work, who it would apply to, and whether it would be compulsory or not, and we don’t think that putting a really broad power like that in this legislation is a good idea.

“We just don’t think the Government should take those sorts of powers, and it doesn’t need to.”

Filtering the web was also ineffective, Carter said.

“They’re easy to get around, they give people a false sense of security, and we’d rather people were focussing on dealing with the problem — which other bits of this bill do.”

Government introduces law which could erect a firewall around New Zealand, concerning Internet NZ