Photo: Netflix
Photo: Netflix

MediaSeptember 14, 2020

Netflix adds warning to doco after complaint to NZ censor over Christchurch terrorist footage

Photo: Netflix
Photo: Netflix

The Social Dilemma includes a clip from the shooter’s live-streamed Facebook video showing him preparing to enter one of the Christchurch mosques.

A warning has been added to a new Netflix documentary-drama for featuring a banned excerpt from the video filmed by the Christchurch terrorist.

The Social Dilemma, which explores the rise of social media and its damaging effects on modern society, landed on the video streaming platform on September 9. In the first few minutes of the film during a montage, it features a short clip from the convicted murderer’s live-streamed video showing him preparing to enter one of the Christchurch mosques. 

Chief censor David Shanks, who classified the live stream as “objectionable” last year for its promotion of terrorism and extreme violence, said the Office of Film and Literature Classification was aware of the clip after it received a complaint from a “very concerned” member of the public. 

“I watched The Social Dilemma documentary and thought it had merit, but was concerned that we currently have a particularly vulnerable population in relation to this category of material. Survivors and relatives of those who were subject to the attack have only recently worked through the sentencing process,” said Shanks. 

“I asked Netflix to change the age advice for this documentary from 7+ to 13+ and to add a warning … I also suggested another option would be to remove the clip.”

In response, Netflix raised the maturity rating to 13+ and now warns viewers of “violence, including brief images from the Christchurch terror attacks”. A spokesperson for Netflix said it would not be making any official statement.

The warning is now visible on The Social Dilemma’s Netflix ‘about’ page

Shanks said he appreciated Netflix’s decision to make the adjustment, noting that “a recent law change means that in future Netflix and other commercial video-on-demand content will be covered by New Zealand ratings and info, but until that comes into effect it’s goodwill like this that enables New Zealanders to get appropriate warnings”.

He also added that while the 17-minute video is classified as unlawful, that doesn’t mean it automatically applies to every image or short extract with media strongly urged to “demonstrate extreme care and good judgement in the treatment of any such material”.

In 2018, Netflix was required to clearly display the classification and warning for the second season of TV drama 13 Reasons Why. The Office of Film and Literature Classification consulted with the Mental Health Foundation in classifying the show as RP18 (parental or guardian supervision for viewers under 18) with a warning that it contains rape, suicide themes, drug use, and bullying.

Last year, a video game based on the March 15 mosque attacks was banned by Shanks for promoting terrorism by placing the player in the role of the Christchurch gunman and including direct references to the attacks.

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