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 16 June 2020 by Erica
Here at the Classification Office we watch a LOT of content. Whether we’re classifying films, DVDs, video games, porn (yes, this is part of our job), or videos and imagery for law enforcement, we’re online and on screens most of the time. As adults who work in media regulation and classification we’ve become used to managing our time in front of the black mirror.
But we know that screen time is a particular point of concern for parents when it comes to their kids and teens (particularly when we all spent so much time online during lockdown!).
So how much is TOO much?
Posted on 14 May 2020 by Georgia
Spoiler Alert: This blog post discusses events that occur in later episodes of Tiger King.
At the beginning of our nationwide lockdown, Netflix released Tiger King; a documentary mini-series that explores the little-known society of big cat conservationists in America. The show explores a bitter feud between zookeeper Joe Exotic and his nemesis Carol Baskin, as well as a host of other eccentric personalities.
Posted on 11 May 2020 by the Information Unit
We sat down with our Youth Advisory Panel to talk about drug use in some of the films and series they have watched. We wanted to know whether they felt that showing drug use in films and series could normalise it and even encourage young New Zealanders to try drugs. We also wanted to know if they were concerned about certain drugs being shown and their thoughts on whether our current warning notes about drug use are good enough.
We were particularly interested in the Panel’s views on the influence of showing people using drugs on screen (instructional drug use) on young people.
Posted on 30 April 2020 by Kate
Pornhub recently released figures showing numbers spiking as more people turn to its services to wile away the hours during their Covid-19 lockdown. It’s natural that news like that made some parents and whānau worry about what their rangatahi might be watching.
The reality is, lockdown is challenging and being online can be a lifesaver. We can work, connect, watch shows and entertain the kids. But some parents might feel concerned about the extra time their children, especially their teens, are spending in front of screens, and the nature of the content that they’re viewing.
Posted on 09 April 2020 by the Information Unit
Right now many of us are on our devices far more than usual – whether that’s chatting with friends and family, working from home, completing online schooling and study, connecting on social media, or watching movies, shows and videos.
This is our current reality, and it's not all bad. But we also know it's a time of increased stress and worry for parents and whānau, and part of this is concern around tamariki and rangatahi being on screens more than ever. We’re here to help, so we’ve launched a campaign with practical advice on how to help children and young people watch media safely, and deal with challenging content.
Posted on 02 April 2020 by Tara (updated post)
The first R13 film I ever saw at the movies was The Blair Witch Project.
I was pretty excited. Not only because it was my first R13, but because the controversy around the film – I had heard that it had made some audience members sick – meant that I was determined to pit myself against it! I was going to be tested and I was going to win. My earnestness and a childhood spent watching American Gladiator had combined to form a weird bravado. I would not be sick.
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’.