Chief Censor lobbies for warning after Christchurch terrorist attack video used in Netflix movie

Images from the Christchurch terrorist's video appear in a new docu-drama by Netflix, but it won't be blocked from view in New Zealand.

Instead of removing the scene or blocking it in New Zealand, the media company agreed to amend The Social Dilemma's rating to include a new warning.

The Social Dilemma is a new documentary-drama movie examining the impact of social media on the world. It was released on Netflix worldwide last week and is currently ranked among the top 10 most popular programmes in New Zealand.

Within the first 10 minutes of the film, it shows images from the Christchurch terrorist's livestream from March 15, 2019. Fifty-one people were killed when the terrorist carried out hateful shootings at Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre that day.

The footage used in the documentary sees the shooter collect his firearms, including a close-up on the writing on his guns. and the seconds before he opened fire on a man at the entrance to the mosque. The victim is blurred and censored from view.

The full livestream was ruled objectionable by the Chief Censor ; possession or distribution of it remains a crime in New Zealand.

But Netflix won't have to censor the clips from its new movie, and it refused to comment when contacted by 1 NEWS.


Chief Censor David Shanks says they received a complaint about the docu-drama from a "very concerned" member of the public last week.

"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," he told 1 NEWS today.

"Survivors and relatives of those who were subject to the attack have only recently worked through the sentencing process."

The terrorist was sentenced to life in prison without parole  just over two weeks before the film was released on Netflix.

The docu-drama was originally rated for ages seven and up, but Shanks says that was changed after his recommendation.

It's now rated 13+ and contains a warning, also recommended by Shanks: "Violence, including brief images from the Christchurch terror attacks, suicide references and content that may disturb."

"I also suggested another option would be to remove the clip," Shanks says.

The clip remains in the film and the warning message is small, appearing briefly in the top corner of the screen as the docu-drama begins playing. 

It also appears at the bottom of the film's About page.

At the moment, Netflix and other overseas streaming services can set their own ratings. Shank says in the future, they'll be covered by the New Zealand rating system thanks to a recent law change. 

He says he appreciates Netflix changing the rating.

"If a New Zealand company had produced the documentary, we would have also asked them to show the warning that Netflix is now using."

Netflix refused to comment when contacted by 1 NEWS, including about whether it felt the warnings were sufficient.


Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker says anyone upset by the content should talk to someone.

"Each person will react differently to upsetting online content. Some people may be confused, have trouble sleeping or even be angry," he says.

People can call or text the free helpline Need To Talk? on 1737.

"If you find other offensive content online relating to the Christchurch attacks, you can report this to Netsafe," Cocker says.

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While the entire livestream video is an illegal publication, it doesn't mean media can't use excerpts or stills from it, Shanks says.

"However please 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," he says.

"Given the horrific circumstances of this attack, and the deliberate strategy of using a livestream to disseminate a terrorist message, we urge news media to carefully consider the impact of sharing, broadcasting or publishing any part of this video."

The video was originally streamed live on Facebook on March 15, 2019, and has been republished in various forms on social media in the later months.

Earlier this year, a "meme" version of the video was only removed from Instagram after intervention from the New Zealand police .

Facebook says it's taken down more than 4.5 million versions of the video footage since it was first broadcast.

1 NEWS has chosen not to reproduce the images from The Social Dilemma in this article.

Additional reporting on this story by Rebecca Moore.