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  • Ethan Rogacion

Advocates Push Government To Rethink Aotearoa’s Web Filters


CW: Mentions of sexual violence

While you read this, kids around New Zealand are accidentally stumbling across violent sexual content online.” 

That’s what the header on the organisation Makes Sense’s website reads, and that’s what its founders are calling on the Government to put a stop to. Set up by sex therapist Jo Robertson and parenting presenter Holly Brooker, Makes Sense aims to prevent children accidentally accessing illegal, harmful content on the internet.

The current filter set up by DIA—and used by a number of internet service providers (ISPs)—only blocks 9.5% of known child sex abuse material online. Jo Robertson told Salient, “It's a very dated process, relying on a manual inputting of URLs containing this material.”

“The technology is there—other countries are using machine learning models to capture this content … but we’re still relying on a manual process of analysts actually typing in the URLs.” She argues that this causes harm for the manual filters that have to view the content, and that it is an inefficient process for the modern online landscape.

On 11 April, Robertson and Brooker presented a petition to MPs from across parties, calling for Parliament to mandate that ISPs filter for an array of harmful online content, including child sex abuse material. Currently, it is only voluntary for ISPs to filter for such content.

“These videos aren’t deep down in the dark web—these videos are on the open web, where our children can easily see them, accidentally, while they are simply doing their homework,” said Brooker at the petition handover. “Other countries have taken on initiatives to block this illegal content, but we are simply not meeting global standards.”

The petition gathered over 10,500 signatures, and is currently awaiting presentation to the House.


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