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The Great Replacement classification FAQs

The Great Replacement (sometimes referred to as the ‘manifesto’) promotes and supports criminal acts including mass murder, terrorism and the killing of children. It tries to glorify the writer and inspire others towards terrorist violence. It identifies possible groups, individuals and locations for attack, and references means of carrying out attacks.

Those interested in reading the full decision can click here

We’ve received a number of queries and complaints regarding the classification of this publication, and those interested in the decision may find this FAQ helpful.

What about Mein Kampf? Why is it freely available to the public, when this text isn’t?
Mein Kampf does not represent a clear and present harm in terms of its likelihood to radicalise New Zealanders to violence. While it is a manifesto designed to persuade people to a political view, within the application of our act, (Film, Videos & Publications Classifications Act 1993) our office cannot ban something simply because it may advocate abhorrent, extreme political views, or if it amounts to ‘hate speech’. There has to be a clear harm identified arising from its publication, to New Zealanders.

The Great Replacement is largely a document of rehashed extremist views, the sole purpose of which is to persuade likeminded people to believe that individual, violent acts of terrorism are justified and easy to carry out.

In this case, this document presents risk of harm by:

  • Including unambiguous calls for acts of terrorist violence;
  • Including information about possible terrorist targets in New Zealand;
  • Providing some information on the means and method for terrorist attacks;
  • Creating a false sense of urgency by characterising the presence of non-white New Zealand residents as an invasion;
  • Dehumanising and demonising non-white New Zealanders as “invaders” - justifying violent action to remove them;
  • Exhorting readers to violence and murder by misrepresenting these actions as part of a grand historical struggle;
  • Attempting to show that the disaffected and vulnerable can find meaning through violence; and
  • Using specific cues and references to create a sense of community and connection with those who are already susceptible to the writer’s violent, extremist views.

Furthermore the content and context of the document sets it apart from most similar material: it is intrinsically linked to the worst terrorist atrocity in modern New Zealand history, and forms a defence of it; it was distributed online minutes before the attack to achieve maximum exposure and notoriety; it was distributed alongside livestream footage of the attacks which glorified and promoted terrorism and acts of extreme violence and cruelty.

Why not ban the Koran or the Bible? Both texts advocate violence against others
While some may take offense at the type of material contained in these texts, and others may use these texts as justification for acts of violence or terrorism, this is in the context of using highly selective passages to support these acts of violence – the books as a whole clearly do not have the dominant effect of promoting and supporting terrorist acts and crime. The Great Replacement on the other hand, does.

What about Freedom of Speech?
Affirmed within the NZ Bill of Rights s14 is the right to Freedom of Expression. This means in NZ ‘everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form’. s5 of the NZBORA states that this freedom is subject “only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society”. This is always a key consideration for us whenever we are applying a restriction on the access to information by New Zealanders. Our Act provides a framework for determining where there may be ‘lines drawn’ in terms of reasonable limits on the freedom of speech. We’ve applied that framework. For this document and video we applied the law in exactly the same way as we have done for other promotional material from known terrorist organisations.

Anyone who really wants to read it, will anyway, so there’s no point banning it. How on earth can you practically enforce such a ban?
The same rules apply online and offline. Some things cross the line, whether it be images of child sexual abuse or material that promotes acts of terrorism. While digital content presents its own challenges, law enforcement agencies both in New Zealand and overseas have experience in meeting those challenges. People involved in the production, distribution and consumption of objectionable material can expect to face the consequences of that illegal activity. This makes a real difference.

Why not give everyone access so we can all see how insane those ideas are and deconstruct them?
We appreciate people may be curious about the attacker’s motives, and interested in reading the publication for that purpose. This document has not been produced in order to inform New Zealanders. It is a document with a specific purpose – to radicalise those who may be persuaded by it, to carry out further attacks. Most people won’t be influenced by its ideology and calls to attack identified groups and targets. Some may be. This raises the real possibility of further attacks inspired by this document.

Isn’t it partly ironic, designed to obscure motives and play to a niche audience who get the ‘in-jokes’?
Yes, in our classification decision we identify the frequent use of obvious irony, internet-speak and use of memes. This only serves to make it more appealing to audiences who feel part of this culture. But it’s not a joke. The writer is serious about their intention to persuade others to carry out attacks on innocents.

You’ve just made the manifesto twice as desirable for those who’d read it for the wrong reasons
We understand that for some people the fact that this document is objectionable may only increase its appeal. However on balance, we consider the risks of having unrestricted access to this document outweigh the risks of making it more appealing to that audience. That approach is consistent with the legal framework we are obliged to apply.

We also consider that most New Zealanders will understand the reason for this restriction, and will abide by the law in order to help make New Zealand safer.

Why give access to the media and academics, and not the general public?
As we have said above, in applying the legal framework to this publication we have determined that the risk of harm of having unrestricted public access to this document is very real.

However we also recognise the public interest in having experts, academics and reporters providing analysis and commentary. Our legislation allows us to grant exemptions to those individuals in order to help maintain the balance between freedom of access to information and public safety.

Christchurch attack publication 'The Great Replacement' classified objectionable

23 March 2019

A publication reportedly written by the terrorist behind the fatal attacks in Christchurch, has been officially classified as objectionable.

“Others have referred to this publication as a ‘manifesto’, but I consider it a crude booklet that promotes murder and terrorism. It is objectionable under New Zealand law,” says Chief Censor David Shanks.

The document, examined under the Films, Videos & Publications Classification Act 1993 (FVPCA), is deemed objectionable for a number of reasons.

“It promotes, encourages and justifies acts of murder and terrorist violence against identified groups of people, ” says Mr Shanks.

“It identifies specific places for potential attack in New Zealand, and refers to the means by which other types of attack may be carried out. It contains justifications for acts of tremendous cruelty, such as the deliberate killing of children.”

“We have dealt with terrorist promotional material before which was deliberately designed to inspire, encourage and instruct other like-minded individuals to carry out further attacks. For example we have found a number of ISIS publications to be objectionable in previous decisions. This publication falls in the same category."

An objectionable classification for this publication is considered to be a justifiable limit on freedom of expression under the Bill of Rights Act in this case.

“There is an important distinction to be made between ‘hate speech’, which may be rejected by many right-thinking people but which is legal to express, and this type of publication, which is deliberately constructed to inspire further murder and terrorism,” says Mr Shanks.

“It crosses the line.”

It is recognised that the publication has been widely reported on over the past week, with many media outlets publishing commentary on it, and sometimes providing links to it or downloadable copies. Many New Zealanders may have read it, possibly seeking answers for why this dreadful atrocity took place.

Most people reading the publication will not be harmed by it. “Most New Zealanders who have read this will simply find it repellent. But most New Zealanders are not the target audience. It is aimed at a small group who may be receptive to its hateful, racist and violent ideology, and who may be inspired to follow the example set by its apparent author.”

It is an offence to possess or distribute an objectionable publication. People who have downloaded this document, or printed it, should destroy any copies.

Those engaged in further reporting on the Christchurch attack may be tempted to consider the use of quotes from the publication that have already been used in other media reports.

“That use of excerpts in media reports may not in itself amount to a breach of the FVPCA, but ethical considerations will certainly apply,” said Shanks.

“Real care needs to be taken around reporting on this publication, given that widespread media reporting on this material was clearly what the author was banking on, in order to spread their message.”

“We also appreciate that there will be a range of people, including reporters, researchers and academics, who will be in possession of the publication for a range of legitimate purposes, including education, analysis and in-depth reporting. Those individuals can apply for exemptions, so they can legitimately access and hold a copy.”

Information on this process can be found here.

“New Zealanders can all play a part in denying those who exhort hatred, killing and terror. If you have a copy of this publication, delete or destroy it. If you see it, report it. Do not support the murderous objectives of its author by republishing or distributing it.”

If you see material of this nature online, report it immediately.

To report harmful content on Twitter, click here.

To report harmful content on Facebook, click here.

To report harmful content on Instagram, click here.

To report harmful content on YouTube, click here.

Any harmful content should also be reported to the Department of Internal Affairs, click here.

For further information:

Maggie Tait
Communications Manager
Office of Film & Literature Classification
Phone 027 346 5970
maggie@classificationoffice.govt.nz

Chief Censor welcomes Board of Review decision re March 15

12 August 2019

Chief Censor David Shanks welcomes a Board of Review decision confirming the classification of the terrorist document - The Great Replacement - as objectionable.

The Film and Literature Board of Review has issued its decision.

Mr Shanks previously “called-in” the document and classified it as objectionable on 22 March.

“I am pleased the Board agreed with our assessment that this terrorist promotional document is objectionable. It is also great to see our assessment tested thoroughly,” Mr Shanks said.

“When we were notified of the review I was honestly pleased. There was significant public debate at the time of our decision which we expected and welcomed. Any decision that impinges upon freedom of expression is significant. That has now been tested by the Board of Review following an application for review.

“We banned the document because it promotes, encourages and justifies acts of murder and terrorist violence against identified groups of people.

“While this screed will not be persuasive to the vast majority of readers, it was not written for them. It was written for the small number of readers who are already on the pathway to violent extremism.

“Sadly, that small minority of readers could well be impressed by the example set by these vicious atrocities. They could buy into the document’s justifications for acts of tremendous cruelty, and be inspired to target the areas identified for attack in New Zealand.

“The aim of these hateful terrorist screeds is to inspire others to similar violent action. Tragically, it appears that this may have already happened.

“Since March 15 we have seen horrific extremist attacks unfold in a synagogue in Poway near San Diego, in a Walmart in El Paso and even more recently in a mosque in Norway.

“What we know so far about these attacks suggests that the attackers were inspired by the extremist ideology and justifications contained in The Great Replacement. Reports tell us they said so in their own documents and posts, posted immediately prior to the attacks.

“These events are tragic beyond words. We can’t look away and allow this violence to spread further. An effective response to this contagion requires an integrated strategy, and censorship is only one piece of the puzzle. All of us can make choices that might spread this dangerous hate further, or we can staunch its flow. Our choices matter, including those made by news media, online platforms and service providers, enforcement agencies, and the choices made by each of us as we interact and share, online and off.

“In New Zealand, The Great Replacement document is a banned publication, but we have granted exemptions to reporters, academics and specialists who are working on reports and studies. These will inform the public in a considered way.

“In contrast, the documents reportedly posted by the recent terrorist attackers do not appear to contain all the same elements that we saw in The Great Replacement, which made that document particularly dangerous here. I have decided not to call in these documents at this stage.

“That is not to say these documents are harmless, they are not. They are further manifestations of a pathway to lethal extremism. We need to understand and address the underlying causes of this growing problem.

“But we will not gain understanding by reading documents produced by killers intent on inspiring others to kill. New Zealanders can give these documents the attention they deserve by ignoring them.”

Note to Editors: The Board made its decision under the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act 1993 section 47(2)(e) following an application for review.

Decision: Download the Board of Review decision (PDF, 1.84MB)

Media Contact: Maggie Tait 0273-469-570

Christchurch attack video footage and document has been banned in NZ – what this means for you

23 March 2019

Video footage of the Christchurch terror attack and the associated document (sometimes referred to as a 'manifesto') have been banned in New Zealand. Here’s some information about what this means for you and your family.

  1. It’s illegal to have a copy of the video or document, or to share these with others. 

    If you or someone you know has a copy of the video or document these need to be deleted immediately, and any online posts or links to the video or document must be removed. 

  2. If you see links to the video or document, report it to NZ authorities

    NZ enforcement agencies are encouraging people to report any social media posts, links or websites so that this material can be taken down. To report content, click here.

    If you or someone you know are distressed and need to talk to someone, please free call or text 1737. You can also call Lifeline on 0800 543 354 or text 'HELP' to 4357. The Ministry of Health has provided mental health advice for coping with trauma here.

Q&As

What if me or someone in my family has viewed or shared the video or document already?

The most important thing is to check that anyone who has seen the footage or read the document is ok. We’re aware that a number of people shared them immediately after the attacks, before they had any opportunity to reflect on what they were doing. Others saw the video without looking for it, or shared it by accident. We support a common sense approach to enforcement agencies about this. In a recent public statement, Chief Censor David Shanks said the following:

“I don’t think New Zealanders innocently caught up in the social media storm following these horrific events need to be concerned. The enforcement focus will likely be on those actively and maliciously involved in spreading this material, and taking actions such as deliberately distorting it to avoid blocks and detection software.”

People’s concern now should be to ensure that this material is deleted, reported, and taken offline. It’s done enough harm already.

The full video is 17 minutes long, if I see a shorter clip or images from the video, is this also banned?

The ban of the complete video does not automatically mean that any image or short extract from it is also banned. However any edited clips, screenshots or still images taken from the full video depicting scenes of violence, injury or death, or that promote terrorism, may also be illegal.

Chief Censor welcomes Board of Review decision on livestream video

18 June 2019

Chief Censor David Shanks welcomes a Board of Review decision to classify the March 15 terror attacks ‘livestream video’ as objectionable.

The Film and Literature Board of Review has made its decision under the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act 1993 section 47(2)(e) following an application for review.

Mr Shanks earlier “called-in” the video and, due to its depiction and promotion of extreme violence and terrorism, on 18 March classified the full 17 minute footage as objectionable.

“When we made the decision we were very conscious we were imposing a limit on the freedom of expression and access to information that New Zealanders normally have - but we felt there was a clear and justifiable need to do so,” Mr Shanks said.

“Any decision that restricts New Zealanders' freedoms is a significant decision. This is particularly true in this case, where so many people have been affected by the horrific and deeply tragic events that are the subject of this video.

“New Zealanders should be able to test any decision affecting their freedoms, and it is good that such a review has been able to be sought and obtained relatively quickly in this case.

“We applied the same framework to the ‘livestream video’ that we had used for assessing material such as ISIS-promotional clips portraying killings and terrorist acts in the name of that cause. Taking that approach we were confident that the ‘livestream video’ was also objectionable under New Zealand law. We see it as positive that the Board has also used a similar approach to come to the same conclusion.

“The members of the Board will have needed to view the footage, and we appreciate that that will have been a difficult task. We in this Office are well aware of the personal impacts of viewing such material. We also wish to acknowledge these serious impacts will have played out for many thousands of New Zealanders who inadvertently viewed this material, or had it ‘recommended’ to them.

“Our hope and expectation is that this decision will support continuing efforts to limit the publication and distribution of the livestream video, so that most New Zealanders will not need to worry about themselves or their children stumbling across it or having it recommended to them.

“And, for the tiny minority who may try to continue to distribute this material to promote hate and killing, there should be no doubt that what they are doing is not just unacceptable – it is illegal.”

Link to decision: Download the Board of Review decision (PDF, 203KB)
Note to editors: The Board is also to consider another application to review relating to the related manifesto document.
Media Contact: Maggie Tait 0273-469-570

Guidance from Chief Censor

20 March 2019

Chief Censor David Shanks is providing more guidance regarding the 17 minute video of the fatal Christchurch shootings, which has been classified objectionable. 

Some members of the public and the media are now seeking clarification on what that decision means for edited clips and still images taken from the video.

There are also concerns being raised around the potential for criminal charges against people who viewed or forwarded on the video during the period that it was widely available on various forums in the hours after the attack.

“While we do not have the numbers yet, it is clear that this video was ‘pushed’ to many innocent New Zealanders by various apps. We have had reports that it also ‘auto-played’ for some people who did not even know what it was,” says Mr Shanks.

“The video will also have been likely passed on by people in the immediate aftermath, before they had any opportunity to reflect on what it was and what impact it might have on people.”

It is now clearer as to what this video is, and its legal status has been determined. Mr Shanks says it is a record of a terrorist atrocity, specifically produced for the purpose of promoting a hateful terrorist agenda. It has almost certainly been harmful to many who have viewed it, and will likely continue to cause harm.

“Enforcement around objectionable material is a primary responsibility of the Department of Internal Affairs, and I have discussed with them the need for a balanced approach to enforcement in this case.”

“I don’t think New Zealanders innocently caught up in the social media storm following these horrific events need to be concerned. The enforcement focus will likely be on those actively and maliciously involved in spreading this material, and taking actions such as deliberately distorting it to avoid blocks and detection software,” says Mr Shanks.

“Every New Zealander should now be clear that this clip is an illegal, harmful and reprehensible record created to promote a terrorist cause. If you have a record of it, you must delete it. If you see it, you should report it. Possessing or distributing it is illegal, and only supports a criminal agenda.”

In terms of excerpts or stills taken from the video, Shanks noted that the classification of the complete video set did not automatically mean that any image or short extract from it was also objectionable.

“However it is very important for people to be aware that any edited clips, screenshots or still images taken from the full video, that depict scenes of violence, injury or death, or that promote terrorism, may well also be objectionable,” says Chief Censor David Shanks.

Shanks noted that given the horrific circumstances of this attack, and the clear deliberate strategy to use media to disseminate a terrorist message, news media and all New Zealanders needed to carefully consider the impact of sharing, broadcasting or publishing any part of this video.

“New Zealand’s news organisations have needed to make ethical judgements about what images they broadcast and print, and I think there is growing awareness about the potential impacts and harms of some of this material, and the need to balance this with the public’s right to information.”

In particular, I’m thinking here of survivors of the attack, victim’s families and friends, those in the Muslim community, those affected in Christchurch and others who have already been traumatised by the attacks last Friday,” says Mr Shanks.

“The bottom line is that even if something isn’t illegal, it may still cause harm to others and we all have a responsibility as citizens to consider that”, says Mr Shanks.

If you see footage of this nature online, report it immediately.

To report harmful content on Twitter, click here.

To report harmful content on Facebook, click here.

To report harmful content on Instagram, click here.

To report harmful content on YouTube, click here.

Any harmful content should also be reported to the Department of Internal Affairs, click here.

Media

Please direct media enquiries to Communications Manager Maggie Tait: 027 346 5970 | Maggie.Tait@classificationoffice.govt.nz

Christchurch shooting video officially objectionable

20 March 2019

Chief Censor David Shanks has officially classified the full 17 minute video of the fatal Christchurch shootings which occurred on Friday 15 March, as objectionable.

The footage, examined under the Films, Videos & Publications Classification Act 1993, is deemed objectionable because of its depiction and promotion of extreme violence and terrorism.  

“I took the step of ‘calling in’ this video over the weekend as a mechanism to fast-track the classification process,” says Mr Shanks. 

Mr Shanks says the video contains exceedingly graphic real life images, which could cause significant harm to those who view it, especially for victims and their families.

An urgent process is currently underway to finalise a detailed report of the Chief Censor’s decision, this will be released within days. 

It is illegal for anyone in New Zealand to view, possess or distribute this material in any form, including via social media platforms. 

“We’re aware that for a time after the attacks, this video was widely available on social media and many New Zealanders saw it, sometimes without meaning to”. 

“Its important people are now clear they should not view, download or share the video”, says Mr Shanks.

Our priority is to mitigate the harm caused by this material to the New Zealand public, and in particular to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives in the Christchurch terror attacks. 

Associated with the video, it should be noted that a lengthy ‘manifesto’ document is being examined separately from the video footage and will take more time to consider.  

There are resources to help those affected by viewing the footage and parents concerned about children and young people having viewed the video. 

For information about coping with trauma, and helping your young ones cope with trauma see advice from the Ministry of Health here, and from The Parenting Place here. Further advice for parents and caregivers on discussing challenging media can be found here

If you are distressed and need to talk to someone, please free call or text 1737. You can also call Lifeline on 0800 543 354 or text 'HELP' to 4357. Connect with your friends and community. Remain close to your loved ones.

If you see footage of this nature online, report it immediately.

To report harmful content on Twitter, click here.

To report harmful content on Facebook, click here.

To report harmful content on Instagram, click here.

To report harmful content on YouTube, click here.

Any harmful content should also be reported to the Department of Internal Affairs, click here.

Media

Please direct media enquiries to Communications Manager Maggie Tait: 027 346 5970 | Maggie.Tait@classificationoffice.govt.nz