Government considering mandatory classifications for streaming services

This looks like being too late and impractical, especially for overseas streaming services .

NZ Herald: NZ Government mulling mandatory classification rules for Netflix and other streaming services

The Government is exploring the possibility of making classifications for on-demand streaming services, such as Netflix and Lightbox, mandatory.

What about Youtube? Facebook?

What about live streaming? That’s where one of the biggest problems is with objectionable material.

Minister of Internal Affairs Tracey Martin said this would bring streaming services in line with other forms of media in New Zealand.

The Government today started consultation on options on classifying content that is available online.

“The way in which New Zealanders access entertainment has changed and New Zealand’s classifications system is not keeping pace.”

It is nowhere near the mark and it’s hard to see how it could keep pace, with the amount of content that becomes available.

She said the current classification system was built around traditional platforms, such as cinema-released films and broadcast television programmes.

The Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act was passed in 1993.

But the media landscape has changed significantly since then.

“Many commercial video-on-demand services do self-classify content under a voluntary scheme provided by the New Zealand Media Council,” Martin said.

But, she added, those classifications had not always been consistent with New Zealand’s regime and some streaming service providers chose not to participate in the voluntary scheme.

“This inconsistency means it can be confusing for parents trying to pick something for their kids to watch or that helps young people make informed choices.”

The only way any sort of consistency could be achieved is if all content was checked and classified by one entity, like the New Zealand Censor. A recent classification by our censor of the streamed video of the Christchurch mosque massacres was generally supported, but the classification of the killer’s manifesto was controversial.

Martin said it was the risk of children being harmed that had driven the process.

Research from the Chief Censor’s office shows 76 per cent of New Zealanders are concerned about children’s and teens’ exposure to visual media content.

Classifying material before it becomes available would be hard enough, but how do you then ensure children don’t watch restricted material. Banned content is only a small part of the problem.

Martin said the reaction to the Netflix show “13 Reasons Why”, which features graphic suicide scenes and scenes of rape, was an example of the issue.

“As with many services and media that have developed from the internet, this issue of classification is one that many countries are looking at and the Censor has told me that there is international interest in what we are doing.

“Our work will also be informed by the steps being taken in Australia and the United Kingdom.”

Sydney Morning Herald: Netflix gets approval to classify own shows after two-year trial.

The Morrison government has given Netflix the green light to regulate film and television classification on its streaming platform in an unprecedented shift following a two-year trial.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield approved the ongoing use of the scheme, which allows the company to quickly rank content between G and R18+ after the review was finalised in August.

The new system removes immediate control of classifications for movies from the Classification Board for the first time since it was established in 1970.

The Classification Board will retain the power to change the ratings made under the new system, and decisions can also be appealed to the Classification Review Board.

Free-to-air stations already classify their own programming under a process administered by another organisation, the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

Ratings are generated by considering the film’s themes, level of violence, sex, drug use, nudity and the language — before being given a classification of G, PG, M, MA15, R18 or being refused.

UK: BBFC Digital Age Ratings

People are concerned to know about how best to choose appropriate films, TV and music videos for their children and families to watch online, on their computers, tablets, games consoles and smartphones.

To provide you with guidance, the BBFC works with a number of on demand services to give age ratings for video content available for download and streaming.

Some of these platforms also provide parental controls, enabling parents to make films with an appropriate age rating available to their children

Using BBFC age ratings for online content helps children and families make the same informed viewing choices when they’re using digital video services, as they can when they’re going to the cinema or renting or buying DVDs and Blu-ray.

Classifications would help responsible parents who can control everything their children watch, but there are big holes in the system. This has been a problem since VCR and DVD content became available – and kids found and watched their parents’ collections.

Classifications have long been a problem. I remember wearing a coat over my school uniform and being allowed in to watch A Clockwork Orange, which in New Zealand was rated R20 until 1984.

The good old days – I don’t remember this one (from Kiwi censorship’s most infamous moments):

Then there was the bizarre decision around the 1967 film adaptation of James Joyce’s Ulysses. Little old New Zealand made worldwide headlines for its decision to segregate male and female viewers. Cinemas found their own ways to interpret the law, whether via separate sessions, the use of stalls and circle seating, or even a rope.

And who new that we had political interference?

Film could also provide inspiration for a solution should the eventual decision on Into the River not go the way of public opinion. 1942 film Love on the Dole focuses on a young woman who decides to become a rich bookmaker’s mistress in order help her family through the Great Depression.

It was initially banned, but Government MPs (including the Prime Minister Peter Fraser) pressured the censor into reviewing the decision. However, knowing that the notoriously conservative appeal board were unlikely to make a change, the Government made the simple decision to replace the entire board. Unsurprisingly, the film was passed for general exhibition.

The modern means of (attempted) interference is censorship by social media outrage or instant petition.

Classification guidance would be helpful for some, but it’s unlikely to make a lot of difference – people, including children, are resourceful in finding ways of watching forbidden content.


Taketh and giveth – a Government media release from Friday: Helping more New Zealanders access online services

More New Zealanders than ever will be able to access online services safely and securely, with today’s launch of a new Digital Inclusion Blueprint, Minister Megan Woods has announced.

“In a world where the internet impacts more and more of our lives, it’s important that all New Zealanders have the tools and skills they need to access online services and use the internet safely and securely.

“Some people can’t easily apply for jobs as many recruitment processes start online, kids may be prevented from doing their homework, and others could feel isolated from more digitally savvy friends and family who communicate using social media.  We want to ensure no one is left out or left behind as more and more of our lives move online.

“Today we are launching the Digital Inclusion Blueprint, which lays out how people can take full advantage of the internet. This will help us identify groups of New Zealanders who may struggle to access online services.

“This Blueprint will be used to coordinate the planning of different Government and community initiatives, and identify where future investment and action is needed.

“Access to online service is a key priority is one of my priorities and an area Government has already invested in. For example, the Prime Minister recently announced $21 million funding for Regional Digital Hubs (RDHs) in towns to connect local people and businesses to digital services.

 

Full ban of ‘manifesto’ went too far according to some lawyers, not others

Some lawyers have said that the chief censors total ban of the Christchurch terrorist’s so-called manifesto went too far, but it isn’t a universal view.

Classification Office: Christchurch attack publication ‘The Great Replacement’ classified objectionable

A publication reportedly written by the terrorist behind the fatal attacks in Christchurch, has been officially classified as objectionable.

“Others have referred to this publication as a ‘manifesto’, but I consider it a crude booklet that promotes murder and terrorism. It is objectionable under New Zealand law,” says Chief Censor David Shanks.

The document, examined under the Films, Videos & Publications Classification Act 1993 (FVPCA), is deemed objectionable for a number of reasons.

“It promotes, encourages and justifies acts of murder and terrorist violence against identified groups of people, ” says Mr Shanks.

“It identifies specific places for potential attack in New Zealand, and refers to the means by which other types of attack may be carried out. It contains justifications for acts of tremendous cruelty, such as the deliberate killing of children.”

“We have dealt with terrorist promotional material before which was deliberately designed to inspire, encourage and instruct other like-minded individuals to carry out further attacks. For example we have found a number of ISIS publications to be objectionable in previous decisions. This publication falls in the same category.”

An objectionable classification for this publication is considered to be a justifiable limit on freedom of expression under the Bill of Rights Act in this case.

“There is an important distinction to be made between ‘hate speech’, which may be rejected by many right-thinking people but which is legal to express, and this type of publication, which is deliberately constructed to inspire further murder and terrorism,” says Mr Shanks.

“It crosses the line.”

It is recognised that the publication has been widely reported on over the past week, with many media outlets publishing commentary on it, and sometimes providing links to it or downloadable copies. Many New Zealanders may have read it, possibly seeking answers for why this dreadful atrocity took place.

Most people reading the publication will not be harmed by it. “Most New Zealanders who have read this will simply find it repellent. But most New Zealanders are not the target audience. It is aimed at a small group who may be receptive to its hateful, racist and violent ideology, and who may be inspired to follow the example set by its apparent author.”

It is an offence to possess or distribute an objectionable publication. People who have downloaded this document, or printed it, should destroy any copies.

Those engaged in further reporting on the Christchurch attack may be tempted to consider the use of quotes from the publication that have already been used in other media reports.

“That use of excerpts in media reports may not in itself amount to a breach of the FVPCA, but ethical considerations will certainly apply,” said Shanks.

“Real care needs to be taken around reporting on this publication, given that widespread media reporting on this material was clearly what the author was banking on, in order to spread their message.”

“We also appreciate that there will be a range of people, including reporters, researchers and academics, who will be in possession of the publication for a range of legitimate purposes, including education, analysis and in-depth reporting. Those individuals can apply for exemptions, so they can legitimately access and hold a copy.”

Information on this process can be found here.

“New Zealanders can all play a part in denying those who exhort hatred, killing and terror. If you have a copy of this publication, delete or destroy it. If you see it, report it. Do not support the murderous objectives of its author by republishing or distributing it.”

Personally I think that it should not be shared, distributed, published or linked to from here and have asked that that not be done here – although selected quotes to make specific points seems reasonable.

RNZ: Legal experts say censorship on gunman’s manifesto went too far

…the Free Speech Coalition said the manifesto could be important for society to understand a dark part of our history.

“Most New Zealanders will have no interest in reading the rants of an evil person,” coalition spokesman and constitutional lawyer Stephen Franks said.

“But there is a major debate going on right now on the causes of extremism.

“Kiwis should not be wrapped in cotton wool with their news and information censored. New Zealanders need to be able to understand the nature of evil and how it expresses itself.”

Journalists, researchers and academics could apply for an exemption to the ban, but that was not practical when working on tight deadlines, Mr Edgeler said.

“Given the censor says that there are groups of people that should have access, imposing a full ban seems the wrong way to go.

“It needs to be perhaps quite restricted – you have to be at least 18, you have to work for a news organisation which is subject to the New Zealand Broadcasting Standards Authority or the New Zealand Media Council – and [it should be that] if you do that, yes, you can have a copy.”

But a lawyer with a different view:

But human rights lawyer Michael Bott said the ban was the right move, and requiring journalists and academics to make formal applications meant any dubious fringe publications or spurious research claims could be ruled out.

“The right to free speech can be constrained when it amounts to hate speech and there is a real risk that someone such as the Christchurch terrorist could basically become a martyr in the eyes of fringe groups who could then use the manifesto as a propaganda tool.

“The potential for harm is just so huge.”

Many publications that could pose a “risk of social harm” had been censored in New Zealand before this, Mr Bott said.

He said, historically, a number of left wing publications were banned in New Zealand, but more recent bans included Danish publication The Little Red School-Book that instructed schoolchildren on sex and drug use, and books with instructions for building guns.

The manifesto was dangerous because it promotes “views that are toxic to democratic society and a culture of tolerance”.

In this case they are reasonable reasons why it should not be distributed or published.

But that could be a slippery slope. Accusations of toxic views and claims of intolerance are common in politics.

I have no interest in reading the manifesto, and see no good reason why most people would want to read it, but it should be able to be examined by researchers and journalists.

 

Whale Oil censor in action

Following on from Belt digs deeper where Pete Belt breaks Whale Oil’s ‘1. Explaining is losing’ rule, here’s an example of Belt in action with message control on the blog, deleting comments he doesn’t like.

This is an exchange of comments from the thread on Whale Oil yesterday:

WOBeltMrMan1

Belt damns himself. Here’s the same section now:

WOBeltMrMan

Since Belt became chief moderator/censor Whale Oil has had a distinct lack of tolerance of any comments that are critical, that point out uncomfortable facts, or that clash with their preferred messages.

This is an example of why the comments threads at Whale Oil have become so sanitised and sycophantic.

Is Trevor Mallard afraid of spades?

Trevor Mallard posted a cartoon at Red Alert suggesting that Kiwis may be afraid of “calling a spade a spade” – in case they are threatened with being done by defamation.

I posted a comment:

(authentic unaltered screen capture image)

This comment never emerged from “moderation”. Is it stuck there, or has it been censored?

Does Trevor Mallard think that anything he says is just “calling a spade a spade”, but anyone who actually does call a spade a spade may be silently censored by him?

(image digitally altered)

UPDATE: even less spade calling allowed. Before:

After:

That  “tough.Trevor” was to me querying what happened to my first post – it’s obvious now it was censored.

Trevor is trying to get sympathy for himself being able to call a spade whatever he wants, and then resorts to censoring and banning others who are speaking frankly.