David Shanks, the New Zealand Chief Censor, writes:
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.
It was the part about livestreaming that brought it to my attention. We received a complaint from a member of the public last week -- just after the
documentary was released -- saying that it contains excerpts from the Christchurch terrorist's video which he livestreamed on Facebook on 15 March 2019.
I had banned that same video in New Zealand days after the attacks. I
classified it as an unlawful (objectionable) publication in New Zealand for its promotion of terrorism and extreme violence.
So was it illegal for Netflix to stream this documentary in New Zealand?
answer is no. As we detailed in guidance we issued at the time , classification of the livestream video in its entirety doesn't mean that every excerpt from the livestream is unlawful, although we had urged media to demonstrate extreme care in the
treatment of this material.
The clips that are used in Social Dilemma support the documentary's narrative, yet it's important to remember that they show a real-life atrocity in New Zealand, that happened only last year, and they
show real people. The timing couldn't be worse. Survivors and relatives of those who were subject to the attacks have only recently worked through the sentencing process.
I watched the documentary, and I was deeply concerned about
I asked Netflix to change their age rating for this documentary from 7+ to 13+ and to add a warning for Violence, including brief images from the Christchurch terror attacks, suicide references and content that may disturb.
I also offered other options - to put up a warning screen at the start of the documentary or remove the footage of the attacks altogether but those options weren't taken up.
Netflix has since updated their rating and warning,
which I appreciate.
The good news is that this type of situation is less likely to come up in the future. A recent law change means that from late next year, Netflix and other streaming services will be required by law to display
New Zealand age ratings and content warnings on all films, shows and documentaries.
If you plan to watch Social Dilemma, I recommend that you watch with care and consider those around you that may be triggered by the content.
365 Days (365 DNI) is a 2020 Poland drama by Barbara Bialowas. Starring Michele Morrone, Anna Maria Sieklucka and Bronislaw Wroclawski.
Massimo Torricelli, a young and handsome boss of a
Sicilian Mafia family, has no other option but to takeover after his father has been assassinated. Laura Biel is a sales director in a luxurious hotel. She has a successful career, but her private life lacks passion. She is taking one last shot to save
her relationship. Together with her partner and friends, she takes a trip to Sicily. Laura does not expect that Massimo, the most dangerous man on the island, will get in her way, kidnap her, hold her captive and give her 365 days... to fall in love with
him. "365 dni" is the first Polish erotic film. It is based on the best-selling novel of the same name from author Blanka Lipinksa.
A British singer named Duffy is asking Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to remove the sexy film 365
Days claiming that it glorifies rape and sex trafficking.
365 Days is an erotic thriller from Poland that has been likened to Fifty Shades of Grey . It is quite sexy for Netflix and has become the services's biggest movie of the summer. The
film is is about a mobster who kidnaps a woman he's been stalking, holding her captive for an entire year so that she'll fall in love with him. Naturally, she eventually does fall for her hunky captor and has a lot of sex with him, in various positions
filmed from many angles.
The films detractors have organised a petition against the film which has been signed by about 54,000 people.
Now Duffy has weighed in against the film citing her own experience with being drugged in a restaurant
and being abducted. She found the premise of 365 Days was just a little too familiar to the singer, so she wrote an open letter calling Netflix irresponsible for airing the film.
When it was first launched in New Zealand,
365 Days carried a rating of R16, but that was bumped up after Chief Censor David Shanks got involved. Shanks said:
We felt that age rating was inadequate, we thought that this was more at the 18-plus level. We also wrote to Netflix and
advised that they should warn for sexual violence as well as potentially highly impactful content in this film that viewers should be warned about.
Shanks said it was frustrating that the legislation his office operated under was from 1993,
and therefore did not cover streaming services. But there was a bill before parliament which if passed, would change that and allow for Netflix to rate films more in line with New Zealand standards.
A petition to ban the Polish Netflix film has gained about 70,000 signatures.
The Change.org petition's author, fitness influencer Mikayla Zazon, wrote:
Netflix clearly stands on the side of
the abusers by having a movie that glorifies, romanticizes, and condones sexual assault trending on their top 10 recommended movies to watch around the globe.
As a social media public figure and a victim of these crimes, I am
outraged and heartbroken that this movie shows up on teens' 'watch next' recommendation.
By taking down this movie on Netflix, we can protect sexual violence in adolescent women and adult women. And we can prevent boys from
seeing such horrific behaviour as permission to sexual assault and rape women.
New Zealand's Classification Office has released new research into New Zealand youth and pornography as the nation's lockdown sees our young people spend more time online than usual.
David Shanks said the new qualitative research report Growing up with porn - Insights from young New Zealanders provided useful findings that were even more relevant during a lockdown.
report and the resources we are launching alongside it will support parents and whanau to help their children and teens during the lockdown," David Shanks said.
The report, based on in-depth
interviews with more than 50 diverse young people from across the country, is the culmination of three years' work for the Classification Office. It follows the nationally representative survey NZ Youth and Porn (2018) and an analysis of the
content of mainstream porn -- Breaking Down Porn (2019).
David Shanks said:
"It will be a surprise to no one that young people use porn for sexual arousal,
but it may be news for some that they also commonly use it to learn about sex, sexuality and gender - even when they know it presents an unrealistic and at times unhealthy view of all those things,"
young people told us that when it came to porn, issues around consent, body image, gender and sex education were what mattered most to them. They were less concerned about issues that are often raised like addiction or aggression."
Key findings were:
Porn is normalised for young people, whether they watch it or not.
Young people are curious about sex and porn is a default learning tool.
porn too, for similar reasons as boys, but see a double standard.
Porn can have a negative impact on body image/confidence.
They think it can negatively influence sex.
Young people and adults are not talking about porn.
Young people want comprehensive sexuality education which includes information about porn.
Young people had varying views about filters or age verification, but agreed that children shouldn't have access to porn.
David Shanks said:
"The clear takeaway from this research is that young people need the adult in their lives to be able to talk with them, rather than take a blanket
negative approach to the topic. Extreme negative attitudes makes it harder to have open conversations about their concerns, and contributes to feelings of guilt, shame and anxiety around porn use,"
online access has, to a certain extent, 'normalised' porn for our young people - regardless of whether or not they watch it, it's a part of their world. Despite their diverse backgrounds and beliefs, participants overwhelmingly supported more and better
education about porn within a context of comprehensive sexuality education.
"Young people are saying that good, clear and honest discussion and education will provide them with a counter-balance for the stories
around sex and consent that porn is telling them.
"They've shown us the way forward, when it comes to equipping them with the twenty first century life skills necessary for navigating their digital lives,
healthily and safely. It's up to us to listen, and to act on it."
New Zealand's chief censor David Shanks has commented on a legislative amendment requiring the likes of Netflix to use New Zealand censorship ratings and rules for content targeted at New Zealand viewers.
Bringing our media regulation framework up to date will take some significant work, and earlier this year Minister Tracey Martin announced a broad media regulation review, with work to commence on this substantively next year. That is
a good idea, but in the interim we thought that there was a relatively simple change that could make things better, clearer and more consistent for NZ consumers right now. That is to require Commercial Video on Demand (CVoD) services including
subscription services like Lightbox and Netflix and rental services like iTunes to use New Zealand classifications, and apply a New Zealand framework to new content.
This is the thinking behind the Films, Videos, and Publications
Classification (Commercial Video on-Demand) Amendment Bill introduced to the House on the 17th of December. Where a film or series has been classified in NZ, digital providers will need to use that classification. And where they are making a new film or
series available to Kiwis, these providers will need to apply a NZ framework, and provide age ratings and information that is consistent with what we expect.
The New Zealand Classification Office has been surveying popular porn on Pornhub and writes:
New research shows that while the most popular porn in New Zealand is not highly aggressive there is a concerning trend of people
The Classification Office has released its analysis of the 200 most popular videos that New Zealanders watch on mainstream porn site Pornhub. Last year the Office released the first stage of its Youth and Porn
research and further research is underway which will be released next year.
This separate analysis was done to break down and analyse the content of porn that is commonly watched in New Zealand.
Censor David Shanks said:
While porn is supposed to be restricted to adults, our research shows a significant number of young people watch it too, and this analysis of popular videos on Pornhub helps us understand what
they are seeing.
As regulators in this space we've been analysing explicit content for over 20 years. The porn industry's move online means that there is more porn available to a wider audience than ever before. Some of this
content can be extreme and illegal.
Our break down of content indicates that New Zealanders generally prefer content that is not so extreme. Of the top 200 clips analysed, just 10% showed physical aggression, 3% showed verbal
aggression and 9% contained derogatory language.
It was positive to find that extreme content does not seem to be what most New Zealanders are seeking out. However we were concerned to find some non-consensual behaviour in 35% of
the popular clips assessed.
We also found that 46% of the most viewed videos featured 'step porn' narratives involving sexual activity between blended family members. In these scenarios, initial refusal or reluctance by one
partner would often be shown as being overcome by persistence and pressure by the other.
Affectionate behaviour was spotted in around a quarter of the clips studied, and only 3% involved the use of condoms.
This analysis provides an important companion study for our initial NZ Youth and Porn research. That research established that porn is a fact of life for many young New Zealanders, and that they may view it for a variety of reasons, including to learn
about sex. Many of the young people we surveyed expressed concern about how porn might impact sexual beliefs, expectations and behaviour.
It is clear from this latest work that porn provides a very poor model for young people who
are developing their understanding of consent and of what a healthy sexual relationship looks like. They need a real counterpoint to the fictional and confusing stories that porn offers. Now it is more important than ever to give our young people the
information and education they need in this space, David Shanks said.
The reality is young people are seeing porn -- it's time to start talking with them about it.
Update: Let's not get too prudish
First, let's look at the content of porn: is it that bad? Three studies are cited relating to the aggression that is apparently rampant in porn.
The first , and purportedly most cited study, found that 88.2
percent of porn scenes contained physical aggression. The numbers seem big. But it depends on what you consider aggression.
Spanking (35.7 percent), gagging (27.7 percent), and open-hand slapping (14.9 percent) were the most
frequently observed physically aggressive acts.
To be honest, I'm not clutching my pearls at this revelation. It's certainly not nice and lovely in a kittens-and-ponies kind of way. But I guess, considering all the handwringing, I
was expecting something a lot uglier and a lot more violent (although even the thought of gagging makes me want to sympathy gag).
Perhaps then, the problem isn't the aggressive acts per se, but the treatment of women. But as it
turns out, in most cases, (95 percent of the time) women reacted to aggression with pleasure or neutrality.
A Star Is Born is a 2018 USA romance by Bradley Cooper. Starring Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper and Sam Elliott.
Seasoned musician Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper)
discovers-and falls in love with-struggling artist Ally (Gaga). She has just about given up on her dream to make it big as a singer - until Jack coaxes her into the spotlight. But even as Ally's career takes off, the personal side of their relationship
is breaking down, as Jack fights an ongoing battle with his own internal demons.
New Zealand film chief censor, David Shanks, has demanded a new warning be added to prints of the Oscar-tipped remake of A Star Is Born .
reacted after complaints of viewer distress from Police Victim Support, who said two vulnerable young people had been severely 'triggered' after watching a suicide scene in the film. The Office of Film & Literature Classification said further
complaints were also filed to them by the Mental Health Foundation.
The film was rated M (PG-15 in US terminology) in Australia and this rating then automatically accepted for distribution in New Zealand albeit with the age recommendation
increased to 16. The Australian consumer advice noted: Sex scenes, offensive language and drug use, but the New Zealand censor has now added suicide to the list.
Shanks praised the film's handling of the topic but said he felt that
the addition was still necessary. He said:
Many people in New Zealand have been impacted by suicide. For those who have lost someone close to them, a warning gives them a chance to make an informed choice about
David Shanks responded to a local press article noting declining revenues for the film censors as people watch movies and porn online rather than DVDs and Blu-rays which require a classification certificate. Shanks writes:
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.
This material is often extreme. Child rape, animal mutilation and graphic executions are the start of it. Nobody in their right mind wants to
see this stuff but someone has to make an official assessment of it in order to prosecute. We do that.
The other side of our operation is classifying commercial film and DVD releases. This is funded through industry. The film and
DVD industry pays less than half of one percent of its revenue to have their product classified in order for it to be exhibited or sold in New Zealand.
Back in the 1990's and up until around 2010 a lot of material was being sold
in NZ direct to DVD -- yes, including a fair amount of adult entertainment. Porn. It seems quaint to think it now, but back in those days the Classification Office would routinely review porn DVDs to make sure they weren't too abusive. As everyone knows
this has changed and increasingly people obtain porn - and a lot more besides! - online. Accordingly, commercial revenue has dropped from around $1.3 million in 2009 to around $600-700k today.
It is this decline in commercial
revenue that we highlighted in our most recent Statement of Intent. When we drafted this Statement we could see that our expenditure was going to exceed income to the point where we would have used up all our reserves by 2020.
have restructured to address this, and we are now in a stable financial position.
During the restructure, I wanted to provide my classification staff with as much choice as possible in the process, and met with all of them
individually. In the end, we had no forced redundancy, everyone who left chose redundancy freely. Many of these people had put in many years of service doing a tough job that many people could not handle. At least one person expressed relief to me that
they would no longer have to view prosecution material.
I salute them.
Now as an office we are in a position to recruit some new people with fresh talent, skills and perspectives. This is vital because in
truth the future of censorship and classification is not murky -- as described in the article -- but is highly changeable and dynamic.
The old approaches to regulation will not work in this environment. The future involves
parents, children and young people who are better informed and equipped to deal with the digital environment. It involves an industry taking greater responsibility themselves, using digital tools to efficiently inform the public. I have been talking to
my counterparts in Australia and the UK who are doing some very innovative things in this area, presenting ideas that could improve the picture for both industry and all New Zealanders.