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No 'porn licence' for New Zealand

Paul Brislen, Editor. 24 June 2020, 8:38 am

New Zealand First's plan to introduce pornography filtering on all New Zealand internet services looks set to fail with its coalition partners Labour and the Greens both declining to support the legislation.

The bill was introduced by Minister for Internal Affairs, Tracey Martin, and follows a number of attempts over the years to introduce legislation requiring ISPs to manage the content being accessed by the nation's users. 

In 1994 National MP Trevor Rogers introduced a Private Member's Bill titled the "Technology and Crimes Reform Bill" but it was not enacted. A subsequent select committee hearing proposed a voluntary code be introduced but that also failed to gain traction.

One exception is the Digital Child Exploitation Filter introduced in 2010 as a voluntary mechanism designed to block the worst excesses of child sexual abuse content. It has largely been adopted by New Zealand's ISPs and is run by the Department of Internal Affairs which employs a manual process with content reviewers who verify whether content breaches the law or not.

Now this latest attempt has also fallen by the wayside and the minister is "extremely disappointed".

The plan included requiring users to "opt out" of any filtering system and that in turn would require some form of age-verification mechanism. In the UK a similar proposal was met with scorn from all sides relating to the "porn licence" that would be required. It was dropped as a piece of legislation in 2017.

Martin will continue work on another bill relating to the publication of extremist content. In the aftermath of the Christchurch mosque killings a number of ISPs actively blocked access to video content relating to the murders, however all expressed their unwillingness to take on the role of overseer of content permanently. 

That legislation is expected to be introduced later this year.


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