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Archive of 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
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The Far Right and the Rise of the Alt Right in New Zealand

Posted on 30 November 2020 by Erica

Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley recently spent some time with our team discussing his research into far right extremism, QAnon, hate speech and free speech. Our resident illustrator Tara did a beautiful job of capturing key points from one session. Stay tuned for our upcoming podcast interview and catch up with some more of his work here.

Infographic of Paul Spoonley's presentation to the Classification Office
Image courtesy of Tara,

Continue reading The Far Right and the Rise of the Alt Right in New Zealand

We Created a Zine!

Posted on 15 October 2020 by Caitlin

-          And let it be known that this is not an easy thing.

Only a few weeks before Zine Fest we met with our amazing Illustrator and mentor, Vincent Konrad – who’s work really made our script come alive. Their detailing, fine line drawing and ability to portray our key messages in such a beautiful and approachable way was so impressive.

Attending and being a part of Wellington Zine Fest was a great experience and we were thrilled to be around Wellington’s most creative individuals.

The vibe was both chill and fun. We enjoyed handing out our Zine to people and encouraging them to have positive conversations about porn!

We really love being a part of the Wellington Community and working with local artists!

Our Zine follows an open and honest conversation about the reality of porn. It highlights things like healthy relationships, body image concerns and feelings of isolation and guilt. 

Check it out below and please get in touch with us if you would like a physical copy!

If you want to see more of Vincent’s work their Instagram handle is @depressionerror – you won’t be disappointed.

Continue reading We Created a Zine!

Keeping treasured memories safe

Posted on 13 October 2020 by Caitlin

Sharing pictures of our tamariki is a way of celebrating their cuteness, their cleverness and their triumphs. But it makes sense to hit pause before you post to give yourself a chance to think about where the photo may end up.

As part of our role to classify content, we receive a large number of submissions from the Police for instance, that contain child sexual abuse material. We often see in that mix of objectionable content pictures of children that look like they have been taken from someone’s social media feed – a child playing at the beach naked, in the bath etc – images you might see in a family photo album, which are taken, shared and used by those with a sexual interest in children.

Continue reading Keeping treasured memories safe

A child creature tells the their parent not to post a photo online. The parent apologies and says they will check next time.

Is social media driving instability?

Posted on 12 October 2020 by Sanjana Hattotuwa

What could I do to destabilise New Zealand? Quite a bit, as it turns out, given a few years and the unprecedented volatility brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic.

This question is far removed from personal desire or an easy endeavour with a guaranteed outcome. I ran it by the Classification Office during a visit as a thought-experiment based on on-going research looking at social media’s role in helping spread anxiety, violence, and hate. What could be key drivers of instability? What could content aimed at stoking fear or anxiety look like? How could violence be encouraged, first digitally and then, justified physically? Could anyone find out what made Kiwis anxious, or kindled their interest the most, daily? What are the implications of this data when studied in the aggregate?

Continue reading Is social media driving instability?

Cuties – Not so cute?

Posted on 15 September 2020 by Caitlin

The Classification Office classifies films, DVDs and video games. Currently content on streaming services such as Netflix don’t have to come through our Office before screening here. The system is changing and in the near future NZ ratings and warnings will be shown on services due to a law change. See our Streaming platforms to show NZ consumer information for more information.

A new film called Cuties has been slammed for sexualising young teens for commercial gain. And if all you saw was the promotional trailer that’d seem a pretty fair criticism.

Continue reading Cuties – Not so cute?

Image from the film Cuties of a girl looking forward

Why Social Dilemma’s Netflix rating wasn’t right for NZ

Posted on 15 September 2020 by David Shanks, Chief Censor

There’s a new documentary out on Netflix which is trending on social media and making headlines around the world.

Social Dilemma looks at how social media companies are exploiting human psychology and using surveillance and data mining to keep people addicted, all to make a huge profit. It explores impacts like the declining mental health of populations, the rise of fake news and conspiracies, and giving terrorists a platform to promote hate and livestream their crimes.

Continue reading Why Social Dilemma’s Netflix rating wasn’t right for NZ

Photo of a young person sitting cross-legged with a laptop on their lap

Terrorism and Freedom of Expression in New Zealand Law

Posted on 01 September 2020 by Erica

Whether it’s films, video games, confiscated material or terrorist propaganda, all of our classification decisions balance section 14 of the NZ Bill of Rights with the analysis framework set out in the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act. This means that both freedom of expression and protection from harm are equally important and equally considered in all we do.

Professor Andrew Geddis came by to discuss the balance of freedom when it comes to classifying terrorist related material – hugely relevant. Our brilliant in-house illustrator Tara captured the kōrero:

Continue reading Terrorism and Freedom of Expression in New Zealand Law

Swallowing the Black Pill

Posted on 11 August 2020 by Shiyi

The Classification Office classifies films, DVDs and video games. What people might not know is that we also classify material for law enforcement. This can include looking at text and image based posts from social media. It's an interesting, complex part of our work. We balance all our decisions with freedom of expression, which the NZ Bill of Rights Act gives us.

Recently we caught up with PhD candidate Angus Lindsay about his research into incels and extremism. Fascinating (and scary) stuff. Check out the brilliant infographic from local graphic artist Tara, below:

Continue reading Swallowing the Black Pill

Streaming platforms to show NZ consumer information

Posted on 06 August 2020 by the Information Unit

Changes are coming to give New Zealanders better information on what to expect when they watch films and shows on commercial video on-demand and streaming platforms.

Until now these digital platforms have not been subject to the same local rules for displaying consumer information as cinemas and DVDs. This means when you browse films and shows on these platforms, you might see unfamiliar age ratings (e.g. “7+” instead of “PG”) and limited content warnings – or none at all.

Continue reading Streaming platforms to show NZ consumer information

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

Young People Working With Organisations

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.

Continue reading Young People Working With Organisations

New Zealand Youth Week

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…

Continue reading New Zealand Youth Week

Chief Censor David Shanks

Chief Censor: That "c" word

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.

Continue reading Chief Censor: That "c" word

Cover of the menstruation issue of Critic Magazine

The handy model of brain development

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.

Continue reading The handy model of brain development

Dr Sue Bagshaw shows us her handy model of brain development

Parents, we need to talk...

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.

Continue reading Parents, we need to talk...

A child in a sweater and a beanie looks at Santa, who is holding a letter


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.

Continue reading Algorithmedia

Young child looks at a lit laptop screen in a darkened room; adults on both sides read the newspaper

Monte Casino: A primer on loot boxes

Posted on 08 November 2017 by Shiyi

We’ve had a few emails about loot boxes lately – mostly to do with their similarity to gambling, and that they’re accessible to children.

Loot boxes have become increasingly visible in the videogame landscape, and are included in big budget games such as Middle Earth: Shadow of War, Overwatch, and the upcoming Star Wars: Battlefront 2, with little examination of the potential harms that can arise from such systems

Continue reading Monte Casino: A primer on loot boxes

Man sits in a casino surrounded by electronic slot machines

Taking control, part deux: It's a jungle out there

Posted on 03 November 2017 by the Information Unit

We know that people like seeing our official, trusted classification information on online streaming platforms, but unfortunately the law hasn't kept up with the times. And so there's currently no legal enforcement of this. 

The good news is that many entertainment platforms do choose to use our classifications for their NZ storefronts - because this is what their customers want. Two good examples are Google Play Movies and movies on iTunes: when you sign in from a New Zealand account, it's our home grown classifications you see. 

Unfortunately, glitches in the matrix do occur from time to time. Sometimes we find that the classification being advertised isn't the classification we gave it. 

This happened recently with the film Super Dark Times on Google Play and iTunes when it was advertised with a G rating but actually classified as R16.

Continue reading Taking control, part deux: It's a jungle out there

Picture of person holding a skateboard in front of a colourful mural

Chief Censor: Porn, jobs, money – the real story

Posted on 02 November 2017 by Chief Censor David Shanks

The future of censorship has been in the news again. A Stuff article titled “Classification Office refocuses future due to lack of pornos and an evolving digital future” has attracted some attention lately.

This article is long on potentially confusing comment and light on facts. Let me put the record straight. Most people don’t realise that we are both government and industry funded. The Classification Office has received just under $2M in government funding since it was established in 1994. This reflects the work we do for government officials – examining and classifying material that has been seized by the Police, Customs or other authorities.

Continue reading Chief Censor: Porn, jobs, money – the real story

David Shanks publicly presenting our Young New Zealanders Viewing Sexual Violence research

Hallowe’en Horror Survival Guide For Parents

Posted on 20 October 2017 by Lily

With Hallowe’en coming up, horror movies will be creepy-crawling onto screens everywhere. As parents trying to guide our children through their media experiences with as little emotional fallout as possible, we need to remember the effect that horror movies can have on kids. They can cause vivid nightmares, a fear of the dark, trouble sleeping, refusing to sleep alone. Or in the case of eleven year old me, a bladder infection because I didn’t want to pee in case there was a clown in the toilet.

Continue reading Hallowe’en Horror Survival Guide For Parents

cartoon jack o'lanterns

3 banned books by New Zealand authors

Posted on 27 September 2017 by Lily

September 25 marked the start of International Banned Books Week, an annual event that celebrates our right to read. As RuPaul has taught us, reading is fundamental. So here at the Office of Film and Literature Classification, we decided celebrate some very special banned books. What follows is a list of three books by New Zealand authors that have had some dubious encounters with local censors over the years

Continue reading 3 banned books by New Zealand authors

A pile of books with their spines facing outwards

Taking control

Posted on 08 April 2020 by the Information Unit (updated post)

Restricting access to movies, games and other entertainment media is a lot more difficult than it was in the days before online streaming, and we’re looking to focus more on education and better information to help young people build resilience and the ability to critically engage with the media they choose to view.

Having said this, some kind of restrictions on content are definitely still important, and children especially need to be protected from upsetting and harmful content. So what can parents do? Is the online space really a free-for-all?

Continue reading Taking control

Woman wearing a VR headset looking upwards

Chief Censor: Censorship – where to now?

Posted on 13 September 2017 by Chief Censor David Shanks

After 90 days in the role of Chief Censor, I have been pausing for a moment to reflect on what the role means, and where it might be headed.

I have had a few people ask me the question about relevance of censorship in a digital age. Today, many of us always have our phones with us. Phones (along with tablets, laptops, and PC’s) provide us and our children with a window into virtually any content imaginable.

Continue reading Chief Censor: Censorship – where to now?

What do young people think about sexual violence on screen?

Posted on 20 July 2017 by Paul

We’ve just released the final report for our research project about the impact on young people of viewing sexual violence in entertainment media. You may know all about why we undertook the project and what it’s all about by now. The point of this post is to share some personal takeaways and observations from my own experience of interviewing young people for the research project.

Continue reading What do young people think about sexual violence on screen?

Teenage girl using a laptop

What does RP mean?

Posted on 20 July 2017 by Henry (updated post)

RP labels aren't used very often, so why do we use them and what do they mean? You will sometimes see an RP13, RP16 or RP18 classification label on entertainment media like a movie or show (for example a series on Netflix or on DVD). An RP classification means that someone under the specified age must be supervised by a parent or guardian when viewing entertainment media. A guardian is considered to be a responsible adult (18 years and over), for example a family member or teacher who can provide guidance.

Continue reading What does RP mean?

RP13 classification label
RP16 classification label

To The Bone

Posted on 15 July 2017 by Kim

Netflix’s To The Bone has received media attention and criticism prior to its release on July 14. The film is based on the experience of the director and follows Ellen, a 20-year- old woman with anorexia, played by Lily Collins. There have been concerns about the film glamorising eating disorders and triggering body image and eating issues in vulnerable young people.

We received inquiries from a teacher and a psychologist who were concerned after seeing the film’s trailer. The trailer shows a gaunt Ellen counting calories, skipping meals, exercising excessively and fainting from starvation, all the while pretending to have her life under control. The people who approached us were worried that eating disorders could be glamorised and could potentially trigger body image and eating issues in vulnerable viewers.

Continue reading To The Bone

To The Bone

Chief Censor: Let's look at the issues

Posted on 10 July 2017 by Chief Censor David Shanks

After fewer than two months in the role as Chief Censor, I have had the privilege of launching the final report my office has produced on the impacts on young people of viewing sexual violence on screen.

I was hugely proud to be able to present this work and to talk about it on a national stage. It is important. It is relevant. And it explores issues that touch so many of us, but are often left in the too hard basket.

Continue reading Chief Censor: Let's look at the issues

Chief Censor David Shanks

Modded video games

Posted on 14 June 2017 by Shiyi

A mod is a modification that is made to a game by changing aspects of the game’s coding. They are files that are easy to download and install. These changes can impact games in various ways: these can be minor changes, such as adding more sophisticated lighting effects into the game; major changes, such as changing the entire story of the game; or somewhere in between. We answer an email asking whether it would be illegal to allow a child to play a restricted game if they used a mod to take out all of the restricted content from it.

Continue reading Modded video games

A mod that changes Cammy's model in Street Fighter 5 to one of Tracer from Overwatch

Yarr!! Here be strangers

Posted on 31 May 2017 by Shiyi

We recently got our grubby little mitts on the technical alpha of Sea of Thieves (which looks excellent), a whimsical game about sailing the high seas and looking for treasure. The game is played ideally with a group of crewmates as much of the gameplay involves mundane tasks (changing the length and angle of the different sails, raising and lowering the anchor, and holding a lantern to see at night). Players can either work co-operatively, or competitively (through combat and attacking other players’ ships). What more could a kid want?

Continue reading Yarr!! Here be strangers

Sea of Thieves cover art

13 Reasons Why: our reasons for the RP18 classification

Posted on 27 April 2017 by Lily

SPOILER ALERT: This blog post includes some discussion about the plot of 13 Reasons Why.

The Classification Office has created a new RP18 rating specifically for the popular Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. The classification recognises that teens are watching and will continue to watch the series, while signalling the strong content and emphasising the essential role of parents and caregivers in discussing this material with young people in their care. In this blog post a Classification Officer explains our reasons for the new classification.

Continue reading 13 Reasons Why

Official poster for 13 Reasons Why

Violent play - classifying violence in video games

Posted on 17 March 2017 by Hayden

Put into law in 1993, the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act (FVPC Act) requires the Classification Office to examine all sorts of media and classify it for New Zealand audiences. The video games that we classify almost always contain violence. So let’s look at that.

Continue reading Violent play

Still from Grand Theft Auto V - man with gun running from explosion

Gamers have their say at the Classification Office

Posted on 24 February 2017 by Paul

Hatred, Dead by Daylight, Postal III - titles many gamers know well. All three games have attracted a lot of attention for various reasons, but mostly due to the levels of violence in each game. So when the Chief Censor called them in for classification recently, we expected some robust debate - not just within the Classification Office itself but with the wider gaming public.

It's helpful for our censors to hear opinions from other gamers, including those most affected by the classification system - young people under age 18. For this reason, we recently invited young gamers to spend time playing and viewing the games at the Classification Office.

Continue reading Gamers have their say

Dead By Daylight, Hatred, and Postal III Games

Safer Internet Day 2017 - be the change: unite for a better future

Posted on 07 February 2017 by Netsafe CEO Martin Cocker

Safer Internet Day is celebrated globally each year on 7 February to promote the safe and positive use of digital technology among children and young people. Safer Internet Day New Zealand is coordinated by online safety organisation Netsafe. In this blog post, Netsafe CEO Martin Cocker writes about the importance of online safety and Safer Internet Day.

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Safer Internet Day 2017 logo

Life as a censor: Reflections of a new Classification Officer

Posted on 14 December 2016 by Lily

"99% of the time I have the job that everybody wants, and then 1% of the time I have the job that nobody wants at all". What's it like to work at the Classification Office? In this post a new Classification Officer ('censor') explains how she got here, what she does and why it's important.

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M label on DVD

Young people's views about sexual violence

Posted on 08 September 2016 by Henry

Earlier this year we asked Colmar Brunton to carry out focus group research with young people to learn about their views on sexual violence in media entertainment like movies, games and television shows. Some initial findings show that young people's views on the subject are varied and complex — and they often found conversation about the topic difficult.

Continue reading Young people's views about sexual violence

stylised image of people talking around a table

It's only entertainment - what's the harm?

Posted on 01 August 2016 by Deputy Chief Censor Jared Mullen

Our intuition tells us that it can't be good for kids to be exposed to excessive aggression, gore, torture and brutality. We worry that they might be shocked and disturbed by what they see. We may also fear that our children could copy the behaviours that they see on screen, or perhaps even grow into overly aggressive and uncaring people. Are we being over protective?

Continue reading It's only entertainment - what's the harm?

Still image of person being beaten in 'The Walking Dead' Season 5

The Classification Office meets virtual reality: what are the ramifications of VR technology?

Posted on 19 July 2016 by Henry

The other day a group of Classification Office staff were lucky to be introduced to virtual reality (VR) courtesy of Sony Interactive Entertainment and its Playstation VR technology. We've been paying close attention to VR for a while now, knowing that inevitably we'll have to deal with VR games - but the experience of VR blew us away.

Continue reading The Classification Office meets virtual reality

Classification Office staff member playing on Playstation VR

"It's hard to know what you should and shouldn't watch" ...a youth perspective on entertainment media

Posted on 05 July 2016 by Sue (Te Aupouri, Te Rarawa, Whakatōhea, Ngāi Tūhoe)

We've been talking with young people around the country to find out how they're consuming entertainment media — and to get a feel for what they think of NZ's classification system and how it affects them.

Continue reading A youth perspective on entertainment media

Young people watching a movie

Research: New Zealanders want trusted classifications in a changing media environment

Posted on 04 July 2016 by Henry

Our new Public Understanding survey looks at the changing ways New Zealanders are watching movies and shows, and playing games — it also shows a high level of support for the classification system. This post asks: what does the research say about the future of the classification system?

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Cover of our research report - Understanding the Classification System: New Zealanders' Views

What does R13 mean?

Posted on 03 March 2016 by Henry (updated post)

Recently there have been a few films and games released with R13 classifications. This page explains what the R13 classification means.

Continue reading What does R13 mean?

R13 classification label

The price of protection

Posted on 23 February 2016 by Henry

New Zealand's classification system is a public service that most New Zealanders rely on all or some of the time. Our recent research found that 81% of New Zealanders would always, or almost always, be guided by classification labels when making viewing and gaming choices for young people.

Continue reading The price of protection

New Zealand paper money

Pornography in New Zealand: do we really still need to be concerned?

Posted on 19 January 2016 by Deputy Chief Censor Jared Mullen

CONTENT WARNING: This article includes discussion of sexually explicit, and in some cases sexually violent, entertainment content.

I am often asked whether, in this day and age, New Zealand media regulators should continue to care about pornography given its almost universal availability - particularly over the web to highly portable hand-held devices. Colleagues, family and friends also quite rightly remind me that New Zealand is a very tolerant country that values freedom of expression and where people dislike being told what to do. They ask whether it is possible or even desirable for regulators to try and restrict the flow of pornography to New Zealanders as a whole and to our young people in particular.

Continue reading Pornography in New Zealand

Neon 'XXX' sign

Sex, horror, crime, cruelty and Star Wars

Posted on 17 December 2015 by Henry

When we examine a film, these are the criteria we're looking for: sex, horror, crime, cruelty and violence. These criteria were also used by the old Chief Censor of Films office when examining the original Star Wars trilogy, a long time ago in a government office not that far away (from us anyway). So are all these criteria in the movies?

Continue reading Sex, horror, crime, cruelty and Star Wars

Star Wars logo

Making wise viewing choices for children and families on free-to-air TV

Posted on 11 December 2015 by Deputy Chief Censor Jared Mullen

SPOILER ALERT: Case studies in this article include previously aired episodes of Family GuyCriminal MindsShameless, and the movie Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

Why is it that so many New Zealanders currently wish for more information on television programmes to make wise choices for themselves and their families?

When the Office of Film and Literature Classification asked a nationally representative sample of 1000 New Zealanders whether they would find it useful to see classification labels on television shows as well as movies - over two thirds said yes.

Continue reading Making wise viewing choices

Hand holding remote control, pointing it at a TV

Classification case study: Marvel's Jessica Jones - Season 1

Posted on 04 December 2015 by a Classification officer

SPOILER ALERT: This blog post includes some discussion about the plot of Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones is a 13-part Netflix television series based on the Marvel comic book character of the same name. The series is an action crime drama about Jessica, a recovering superhero-turned-alcoholic private investigator who is struggling to come to terms with recent traumatic experiences. Her main antagonist is Kilgrave (otherwise known as the Purple Man in the comics); Kilgrave's superhuman ability is to command the wills of other people.

Continue reading Marvel's Jessica Jones - Season 1

Promotional image for Marvel's Jessica Jones

Thinking about your holiday viewing

Posted on 01 December 2015 by Michelle

We recently asked in a UMR survey whether people would find it useful to have the classification labels that are used for cinema and DVD applied to television content. 68% of people surveyed said yes, it would be useful to see these labels on television shows as well as movies.

Most people who said they'd find the labels useful pointed to them being a useful guide for making viewing choices for children.

Don't always get to see TV content before kids see it and can be difficult to judge appropriateness.

[Would use labels] To ensure children in the house did not get to watch unsuitable programs accidentally.

People in our survey mentioned not only the usefulness of classification labels in relation to making safe viewing choices for children; they also said that having classification labels on television shows would help them make informed choices for themselves and give them an idea about what sort of content to expect in a show. 

Continue reading Thinking about your holiday viewing

Family watching TV

From The Butcher Shop to Into the River - the history of book censorship in New Zealand

Posted on 02 October 2015 by Michelle

This week is Banned Books Week and a great opportunity for community discussion around the history of book censorship in New Zealand, and how the classification system works today. This post is adapted (and updated) from a paper we presented at LIANZA's 2010 conference.

In this post we'll cover a couple of notable examples of book censorship from the early part of the 20th century, then move on to the era of the Indecent Publications Tribunal (IPT) and the work of our current Classification Office.

Continue reading From The Butcher Shop to Into the River

The Butcher Shop and Into The River book covers

Our new website for students and teachers

Posted on 22 July 2015 by Henry

Providing quality, relevant and updated content for students has long been a focus of ours. Students and young people generally are some of our most important stakeholders - they're big consumers of entertainment media and are directly affected by our classification decisions in a way that adults aren't. We try to do as much as we can to help young people understand the system, and also to encourage them to comply with classifications when choosing content for themselves and people younger than them.

Our original website for students helped us achieve these aims, and we got plenty of positive feedback from students and teachers. But after five years it was time for an update.

Continue reading Our new website for students and teachers

Students' website homepage

The meaning of the M label

Posted on 20 May 2015 by Michelle (updated post)

Have you ever been faced with a pleading 12 year-old who wants to see an M movie and you aren't really sure if you should let them?

While an M classification means the film is unrestricted - anyone can see it - it is more suitable for older viewers. This is different to the red labels which are legal restrictions and the film cannot legally be shown to anyone under the age on the label.

The M classification means the movie might contain violence, offensive language, drug use, sexual or adult themes or nudity that some kids and parents find challenging.

Continue reading The meaning of the M label

M label on DVD

Heavy penalties: law changes aim to protect children by clamping down on child sexual abuse material

Posted on 30 April 2015 by Henry

The Classification Office was set up under the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993, which is the basis for New Zealand's classification system. Most people associate our work with age-restricting entertainment content like movies and games, less well known is that we classify images and video clips depicting the sexual exploitation and abuse of children and young people. We're responsible for determining whether or not this material is objectionable (banned), and we use the same classification criteria as we do for movies, games and other publications.

Continue reading Heavy penalties

Cover of the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act

New Zealand vs the world: how do our classifications rate internationally?

Posted on 24 November 2014 by Henry

Have you ever wondered how New Zealand's classifications compare to those overseas? It's a difficult question - even Google can't answer it - but we think it's an interesting one, and so a few years ago we started work on finding the answer. We first published our findings in the 2013 Comparing Classifications report, and we've recently published an update using the same methodology (using movie and game classifications from 2012 and 2013).

Continue reading New Zealand vs the world

Graphs and pie charts

Brutal yet beautiful: stylised violence in films

Posted on 19 September 2014 by Michelle

Violence is one of the things that the Classification Office has to consider when classifying a film, a game, or another sort of publication. There are lots of different ways violence can be depicted, and these differences can impact on both how audiences respond to the film and how the Classification Office classifies it. In an earlier post we presented some of our research findings into young people's perceptions of violent content in films. In this post, we'll have a look at depictions of 'stylised' violence in film.

Continue reading Brutal yet beautiful

Sin City poster

The horror!!

Posted on 21 August 2014 by Michelle

'Horror' is one of those words that can mean different things to different people. It can be scary. It can be gross or disturbing. Sometimes, it can even be funny.

A variety of content can be regarded as horrific or horrifying, and this doesn't only apply to the genre of horror films. You can have extreme and unrealistic depictions of horror, perhaps in the form of extended and gratuitous torture or death scenes in a film. You can also think of 'horror' in terms of the supernatural - ghosts, zombies, and vampires. 'Horror' often overlaps with other criteria the Classification Office must consider, such as violence and cruelty.

Continue reading The horror!!

Classic old horror movie posters

Contains nudity: nakedness and the Classification Act

Posted on 22 July 2014 by Henry

Does nudity offend you? It offends a lot of New Zealanders, but it might surprise you to learn that we can't restrict something for nudity alone. We can only restrict or ban something using the classification criteria within the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993. In passing the Classification Act, the New Zealand Parliament decided that people's freedom to view or read something should only be restricted if there is a likelihood of harm to society - and something that's offensive isn't necessarily harmful.

Continue reading Contains nudity

Ancient Greek statue of discus thrower

Censor for a Day

Posted on 19 June 2014 by Michelle

We often get inquiries from students about working at the Classification Office. They want to know what qualifications they need and what the job entails. Many are passionate about media, and about censorship, perhaps not surprising seeing as teens are arguably the group most affected in New Zealand by the classification system. They, like many other New Zealanders, often are uncertain about how classifications for films and games are determined, and what the basis is for sometimes not allowing them to see content they'd like to.

This is one of the main reasons the Classification Office runs the Censor for a Day event for senior Media Studies students twice a year.

Continue reading Censor for a Day

Censor for a Day participants

Psychoactive censorship? Drug use in films, games and other publications

Posted on 16 May 2014 by Henry

Depictions of drug use, and the effects and ramifications of drug use, can be powerful subject matter for films and other media. The impact of this material can be high, and there are a number of things to consider during the classification process. For example, is drug use glamorised, encouraged or normalised? Are young people shown using drugs? How realistic are the depictions? If a substance is harmful, does the film, game or book as a whole make this clear to the audience or reader?

Continue reading Psychoactive censorship?

Marijuana leaf

Censorship and the mother country: the UK's influence on censorship in early New Zealand

Posted on 14 April 2014 by Henry

In honour of the Royal Tour we think it's a good time to look at New Zealand's historical ties to the UK - on the topic of censorship of course.

Along with their trunks and valises packed with their worldly goods, settlers to New Zealand also carried the rights, obligations, and precedents of English law. The common law system allowed a relatively open environment in terms of freedom of expression, even though these rights were not explicitly protected (unlike the Americans with their Bill of Rights). Of course, these rights were never absolute, and our new colony also inherited limitations to the freedom of expression.

Continue reading Censorship and the mother country

Old postcard with censored stamp

I know it when I hear it: what's offensive language and how do we classify it?

Posted on 28 February 2014 by Henry

The first word ever spoken could have been the result of someone stubbing their toe in a cave, and our ancestors were probably hurling abuse at each other the moment they started communicating. From the dawn of the expletive, no doubt, what was offensive to some was of no concern (or even humorous or endearing) to others.

So what is offensive language? Is it swearing, profanity, or obscenity? Abuse, cussing, and cursing? A derogation, denigration, or deprecation? An execration, imprecation or malediction? A 'no-no'? It could be any of these things, or none of them.

Continue reading Offensive language

Swear jar

NZ classifications online

Posted on 11 February 2014 by Henry

Today we're celebrating Safer Internet Day 2014, an event which promotes awareness of the challenges that people sometimes face online, and helps inspire confidence in dealing with these challenges - particularly amongst children and young people. These challenges can take many forms, including cyber-bullying, unwanted contact from strangers, privacy issues, and exposure to potentially distressing content like pornography or violence.

Our recent research into young people's views about classification systems and media content, in particular the literature review component, found that concern about online content is widespread amongst young people. This post focuses on access to movies and video games online.

Continue reading NZ classifications online

Webpage URL on a computer screen

The Office of Film and Video Game Classification

Posted on 30 January 2014 by Henry

That's not our real name, but it might make more sense than the Office of Film and Literature Classification - because we classify far more games than books.

To date, we've classified 912 computer and console games. That might seem like a lot, but it's only a small proportion of all the games available in New Zealand. This is due to the way NZ's classification law was written in 1993, which put video games into the same category as documentaries, advertisements, and films of sports events, meaning that only games with restricted content have to be examined by our office and issued official classification labels.

This is partly a reflection of the nature of games back in the early 1990's - well before the launch of dedicated 3D consoles like Sony's Playstation, the Sega Saturn and Nintendo64. Twenty years later, the power of gaming hardware has grown exponentially, and so has the level of detail, realism, and sophistication in games.

Continue reading The Office of Film and Video Game Classification

Two people playing video games

Don't agree? Seek a review

Posted on 15 January 2014 by Michelle

The Classification Office is not the only authority that can issue classification decisions in New Zealand - the other body is the Film and Literature Board of Review. Sometimes, confusion arises between the role of the Classification Office led by the Chief Censor and the Board.

Any person who is dissatisfied with a classification decision of the Classification Office may seek a review by the Film and Literature Board of Review.

Continue reading Don't agree? Seek a review

Cartoon of two people disagreeing

What to do about restricted books

Posted on 09 January 2014 by Michelle

Each year a small number of books are submitted for classification. If a restricted classification is assigned, this effects how the book needs to be handled by libraries, bookstores, and anyone else supplying the book.

Films need to be classified before they are supplied to the public. Books (and magazines) are different - they are generally only classified as a result of complaints from members of the public, or enforcement action by New Zealand Customs, Police, or the Department of Internal Affairs.

Continue reading What to do about restricted books

Books on shelves

Selling those unwanted DVDs and games you got for Christmas

Posted on 05 January 2014 by Michelle

Perhaps a well-intentioned relative got you a game that you have no interest in playing, or your stocking was stuffed with a box set of a tv series you already have a copy of. Whatever the reason, if you're going to list your unwanted DVDs and games for re-sale on sites such as TradeMe, you need to make sure they are correctly labelled.

It is a legal requirement that DVDs or games supplied to the public, including those sold second-hand, have the correct New Zealand classification label. It is also part of TradeMe's Terms & Conditions, and they remove listings that don't comply with the law.

Continue reading Selling those unwanted DVDs and games you got for Christmas

Piles of old video games

Tips for Christmas shopping: films, DVDs & games

Posted on 06 December 2013 by Michelle

It's that time of year when the tills are ringing with the sales of DVDs and games, and summer blockbusters are being released at the cinemas. It's also a time of year when we get questions about what the classification labels mean, and what the rules around enforcing them are.

To make the whole process a lot easier for everyone involved, we've put together a few tips for you.

Continue reading Tips for Christmas shopping

Child in a video store

Taking a closer look at violence

Posted on 28 November 2013 by Henry

Young people's experience of pornography is a hot topic at the moment, and people tend to have some pretty strong views about it. Many young people think it's potentially harmful, but they also feel this way about violent and horrific content.

In a recent survey, we asked 16-18 year-olds to indicate which types of content could be harmful to people their age, and violence topped the list.

Continue reading Taking a closer look at violence

Scream Queen cartoon

Nobody cares what we think: a post for teens

Posted on 12 November 2013 by Henry

A lot of teens think that public organisations like the Classification Office don't rate your opinions about what may be harmful in media content. But we do. We do research to prove it and ask you directly.

In one of our recent studies, young people told us how they defined 'harm', and we agree with them. They said that there are short term harms like a momentary shock - getting a fright - that you get over pretty quickly, usually. Then there're the things that stay with you, and you develop some fears or have trouble sleeping. Not so good. If someone develops suicidal thoughts or feels depressed because of something they've seen in the media, then that's serious.

Continue reading Nobody cares what we think

Teenagers watching a movie

Let's talk about sex (and horror, crime, cruelty and violence)

Posted on 01 November 2013 by Henry

The point of this introductory post is to give you a small taste of what you can expect in future in terms of content, because (like all bloggers) we want you to come back for more.

Is the title of this post trying to shamelessly get your attention? Of course it is - but it's also entirely relevant, so bear with me. Despite us being a very boring and ordinary (and spotlessly professional) public agency, providing a basic set of services to the public, our work does give us the opportunity to talk about stuff that most people find at least a little bit interesting.

Continue reading Let's talk about sex

SEX written in wooden letter tiles