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CLASSIFIED - our blog

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.

Comment moderation

We want discussion to be as free and open as possible, but please be aware that we will not approve any comments that:

  • contain personal attacks against individuals, groups or organisations
  • use highly offensive language or terms of abuse that target specific groups (unless use of this language is clearly relevant to a post or discussion)
  • encourage others to view objectionable content, or provide links to this content or to other graphic or explicit content
  • include personal information such as home addresses or phone numbers
  • include information about anyone involved in an ongoing court case relating to offences under the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act
  • are clearly and intentionally off-topic
  • contain spam, or are sales pitches, promotions or links to commercial sites
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How much screen time is TOO MUCH screen time?

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?

Continue reading How much screen time is TOO MUCH screen time?

A young girl is shown in profile. She sits on the couch and is looking at a tablet. Behind her is text saying "How much screen time is too much screen time?"

Our Youth Advisory Panel talk Tiger King

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.

Continue reading Our Youth Advisory Panel talk Tiger King

Our Youth Advisory Panel on drug use in films and series

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. 

The influence of showing people using drugs in films and series 

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.

Continue reading Our Youth Advisory Panel on drug use in films and series

The Porn Talk

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.

Continue reading The Porn Talk

Helping parents during COVID19 lockdown

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.

Continue reading Helping parents during COVID19 lockdown

A young woman looks at her phone. To her right is the text "Kids on screens more than ever? Watch together, talk together".

Why R13?

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.

Continue reading Why R13?

A cartoon image of a young girl sitting in a cinema, staring down at her feet. Her hand covers her right eye. A bucket of popcorn is beside her, untouched.

Gender and the Legality of Deepfakes

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.

Continue reading Gender and the Legality of Deepfakes

Young people talk sex on screen

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 MouthPretty Little LiarsRick and MortyRiverdaleSex Education and Euphoria. We also used clips from films BlockersDudeDuffEasy ALady 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.

Continue reading Young people talk sex on screen

A stylised image of a person with a skateboard. Superimposed on it is the text, "Consensual and realistic depictions of sex give parents a good opportunity to talk to their kids".

Extremism across the spectrum

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.

Continue reading Extremism across the spectrum

A step in the right direction

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.

Continue reading A step in the right direction

Porn - let's talk about it

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. 

Continue reading Porn - let's talk about it

Breaking Down Porn

Dealing with “Deepfakes”

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.

Continue reading Dealing with “Deepfakes”

An image that shows a deepfake of Putin juxtaposed against the original video
An image that shows the Deepnude app's Twitter account on a phone

The Ghosting Phenomenon

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.

Continue reading The Ghosting Phenomenon

Drawing a line

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.

Continue reading Drawing a line

What? LOOT BOX is evolving!

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.

Continue reading What? LOOT BOX is evolving!

Image of arcade machines at an arcade

ISP's blocking 8chan: Chief Censor's statement

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:

Continue reading ISP's blocking 8chan: Chief Censor's statement

Using screen time to your advantage

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.

Continue reading Using screen time to your advantage

Child looks at a tablet with a lit up screen
Child using a tablet, choosing an option from an application

Surprise! It's a loot box

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.

Continue reading Surprise! It's a loot box

Image of arcade machines at an arcade

Courting consequences

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.

Continue reading Courting consequences

head shot of Chief Censor David Shanks

Far from perfect

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’.

Continue reading Far from perfect