A blog by members of our Information Unit
We provide information to other staff at the Classification Office, to the public, and to industry members - we are not involved in assigning classifications. The content of our blog posts will be wide-ranging - for example we'll be discussing censorship and freedom of speech, pornography, research, or other aspects of our work at the Classification Office. Keep up with our blog posts by following us on Facebook and Twitter.
We want discussion to be as free and open as possible, but please be aware that we will not approve any comments that:
Posted on 18 February 2020 by WhoIsHostingThis
If you ran across a photo of Tommy Lee Jones as a neanderthal, cooking food over an open fire, you wouldn't think much about it.
After all, Photoshop and other image editing tools have been available to consumers since the 1990s.
But if you saw Tommy Lee Jones starring in the 1953 cult classic The Neanderthal Man, it might give you pause.
Until recently, altering video footage in such a fashion was considered impossible. However, with advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, laypeople can now create such videos. They're called "deepfakes" and they've been described as posing "nightmare" scenarios.
Posted on 27 January 2020 by Georgia
We recently talked about sex in films aimed at teens with our Youth Advisory Panel. We wanted to know if our classifications matched with our young people's experiences.
We kicked off with clips from popular series. We watched Big Mouth, Pretty Little Liars, Rick and Morty, Riverdale, Sex Education and Euphoria. We also used clips from films Blockers, Dude, Duff, Easy A, Lady Bird, and Sex Tape.
The comments are insightful and interesting. We had a great discussion about the difference between scenes of realistic and not so real sex.
Posted on 24 January 2020 by Erica
Not many people know just how broad our responsibilities are when it comes to content classification in New Zealand. We do watch a lot of films, but we also work closely with law enforcement, classifying child exploitation material and terror related content, for court.
It’s the most challenging, high impact work we do. And the breadth of our work means we end up connecting and conversing with a range of experts in related fields. Last week we spent some time with Dr Louisa Buckingham an Applied Linguistics researcher and lecturer from Auckland University, whose latest work examines the parallels between the language and expression of ISIS and Far Right Extremists.
Posted on 23 December 2019 by Chief Censor David Shanks
As a parent with children spanning the ages of 6, 12, and 15, I am keenly aware of the challenges facing parents and caregivers in today’s broad ranging digital environment. Online game platforms, streaming services like Lightbox, massive content hubs like YouTube and apps like Tik Tok provide huge opportunities for entertainment and engagement. But I worry that my kids find these things a little bit too entertaining, and I struggle to stay on top of what they are playing and watching. Lots of parents tell me they feel the same.
Posted on 09 December 2019 by Chief Censor David Shanks
Lots of New Zealanders watch porn.
We don’t know exactly how many of us watch it, or how often. But it is undeniably popular. Per capita, we are 13th in the world for frequency of visits to the biggest online site, Pornhub.
Posted on 17 October 2019 by Curtis Barnes and Tom Barraclough
Have you just seen Nicholas Cage’s face on somebody else’s body? Was he singing? Dancing? You can’t quite remember him in that scene from Lord of the Rings, but perhaps you just forgot…
If you find yourself having thoughts like this, chances are you’ve just come across your first “deepfake” video.
Posted on 27 September 2019 by Caitlin
A lot of what we do here at the Classification Office involves impacts on young people, and we try to always have their interests at heart. Whether it's content in films and shows or our research into pornography we seek to give useful information and advice. In that vein Classification Advisor Caitlin has a look at the phenomena of ghosting.
Ghosting is a not so nice side of our increasingly online lives. Sadly ghosting is not Patrick Swayze showing up from the afterlife looking hotter than most men do when they’re alive. I’d be OK with it. But in fact it’s quite the opposite.
Posted on 23 September 2019 by Chief Censor David Shanks
In two years as New Zealand’s Chief Censor, I cannot begin to describe to you some of the things that I have seen.
On one hand, my Classification Office is responsible for age-classifying commercial films, videos and games. That is the fun part. I’ve never seen so many film festival movies as I did in my first year, watching them at a cinema that had been opened specially for myself and one of my team.
On the other hand, my staff and I have to classify material sent to us by law enforcement. This is the dark side. This can be dreadful child sexual abuse images, or harrowing rape clips. And other things, things that some people would find even more damaging to watch.
Posted on 28 August 2019 by Shiyi
It’s a well-known fact that good children get presents for Christmas, while bad children get lumps of coal in their stockings. But imagine that you reach into the stocking and, even though you’ve been a good kid all year, you still ended up with a lump of coal.
What a bummer.
That’s kind of what happens sometimes with loot boxes in games. Except with loot boxes you actually pay for them. You don’t know what you are paying for and if you don’t get the item you want then you can end of buying a bunch of them.
Posted on 09 August 2019 by Information Unit
The website 8chan has been an online forum of choice – and a key source of inspiration – for numerous mass shooting suspects in the past few months. Most recently, the alleged perpetrator of the massacre in El Paso, Texas, released a so-called ‘manifesto’ on the website outlining his reasons for the attack and expressing support for the Christchurch terror attack. In the past week cyber-security company Cloudflare terminated services for 8chan, effectively shutting down the site. In NZ, Internet Service Provider (ISP) Spark has just made headlines for promising to block the site if and when it reappears.
A recent Guardian article features the response from Chief Censor David Shanks. You can read his full statement below:
Posted on 09 July 2019 by Information Unit
You’ve heard the stories. Screen time is bad… right? Mums, dads and carers want to do their best for their kids and it's pretty easy to feel like a failure if you give into screen time even if its hailing outside...
But you don’t have to rip that smartphone from your increasingly strong 10-year-old’s hand for their own good. Maybe we can help you get through this holiday without feeling so guilty about letting your kids indulge.
Posted on 04 July 2019 by Shiyi
In our office we talk to young people a lot about how we classify films and other content like games. Those who are into gaming often ask me about loot boxes and how we classify them. It’s tricky because in New Zealand loot boxes don’t constitute gambling.
Right now there's quite a bit of interest in loot boxes after members of the industry defended its actions by saying that they were not ‘loot boxes’ but 'surprise mechanics'. Some players found that ridiculous.
Posted on 21 June 2019 by David Shanks
On Tuesday a man was jailed for 21 months for sharing the livestream video of the March 15 Mosque terror attacks.
In every decision we carefully balance New Zealanders’ rights to freedom of expression with the need to protect our communities from harm. This case highlights the serious consequences of the decisions we make.
Posted on 12 June 2019 by David Shanks
At our office we try to ensure that Kiwis get all the information they need before they watch a movie or series, so people can make viewing choices that are right for them. Increasingly we are less about ‘censorship’ and more about empowering Kiwis to make their own informed choices.
A good example popped up this week after my office was told about themes of sexual violence and child abuse in a film called The Perfection. It initially landed via Netflix as 16+ with a note for ‘Language, violence, nudity’. This looks to me like a US rating. I checked with my counterparts overseas, and found that the Aussies initially rated it as MA15+, with the note ‘Strong Nudity, Strong Violence, Strong Blood and Gore, Strong Coarse Language, Strong Horror Themes, Horror Violence’ and the Brits gave it an 18, with a note for ‘Sexual violence, suicide references’.
Posted on 23 May 2019 by Kaya
We asked Kaya, one of our Youth Advisory Panel members, to share her thoughts around the importance of young people working with organisations.
Posted on 21 May 2019 by Chief Censor David Shanks
New Zealand Youth Week is a great time to celebrate young people by recognising their contributions and achievements. The Office of Film and Literature Classification understands that our decisions affect young people, and so it is essential we include them in our work. Our Youth Advisory Panel is made up of a diverse group of individuals from all over the Wellington region. They regularly meet to discuss various issues and experiences and share their insights with us.
We have members who are heavily into politics and current affairs, and others who just love to watch movies! Each has a valuable perspective and knowledge to share and one thing they have in common is their passion for youth voice. Let me share with you some of the amazing things they have done over the past year…
Posted on 31 May 2018 by Chief Censor David Shanks
I’ve been reflecting on the recent media coverage about the ‘menstruation issue’ of Critic student magazine. It was the liberal use of the “c” word (censorship) that caught my attention, as you might expect.
Censorship can be an ugly thing. But every country needs to find an approach that works to balance freedom of speech, and the harms that can ensue from abuse of that freedom.
Posted on 01 May 2018 by Dr Claire Henry, Massey University
It can be a minefield to figure out what media content is suitable for young people in your care, how they might react to it, and how to discuss what they see in movies, TV shows, and video games.
You may have wondered: How does a teenager’s brain work? Why do they seem to think with their emotions? How do I talk to kids about sensitive issues that come up in the media? With 30 years of experience in the youth health sector, Dr Sue Bagshaw from the Collaborative Trust became our helpful guide to understanding the challenges and opportunities that media content can present for young people and their parents.
Posted on 01 January 2018 by Lily
For the past couple of months, the OFLC has been working in partnership with some amazing people to create resources for parents and caregivers that offer realistic, easy to implement strategies aimed at helping you communicate with the young people in your life. These resources aren’t aimed at inducing guilt or telling you to be better: we know you’re doing the best you can. We know these conversations can be hard. We just want to put more tools in your toolbox, and make it easier for you to do the things you want to be doing already.
Posted on 11 December 2017 by Shiyi
The internet is buzzing about creepy YouTube videos at the moment. The first article to really catapult this issue into the mainstream was Something is Wrong on the Internet, which is lengthy but well worth reading as it details some of the immediate concerns around these videos.
A lot of the discourse that has come out since then has focussed on the mere existence of these videos; a concern that these videos are not just unsettling but that they are inappropriate for children, and yet are being targeted at them - and the wool is being pulled over parents’ eyes because of the way that these videos are being presented.
That is a problem, but we all need to take a collective step back and breathe. This kind of confusion isn’t new. What is new is the scale in which this kind of confusion is occurring, and the fact that much of this problematic content is being created for and targeted at children (generally pre-schoolers), on the back of new digital marketing forces that no-one seems to fully understand.