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" - meaning it is banned.

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That raises the prospect of a fine of up to $10,000 or up to 14 years' jail for anyone who shares the clip - and this morning, Privacy Commissioner John Edwards called on Facebook to share names with police.

It is an offence to share this material as soon as it is produced, and the timing of the official classification does not affect the ability for police and enforcement agencies to prosecute offences under the Films, Videos & Publications Classification Act 1993, Shanks says.


"Facebook should be notifying the police of the account names of people who have shared this content," Edwards told RNZ this morning.

"It's not a conflict I think because at the core there is a very egregious offence to the dignity and the rights to privacy of the victims."

The Herald asked Facebook for comment. The social network's VP for global policy, Monika Bickert, would not answer the question directly, but said her company ordinarily would not share account details unless there was "something like an imminent threat of violence."

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

The alleged shooter's 75-page manifesto is still being assessed, as of Tuesday afternoon.

Chief Censor David Shanks. Photo / Mark Mitchell.
Chief Censor David Shanks. Photo / Mark Mitchell.

Earlier, Deputy Chief Censor Jared Mullen outlined the penalties for sharing banned material.

"If you didn't know the material was objectionable and you were found in possession of it, a maximum fine of $10,000 could apply," he told the Herald.

"If you knew the content was objectionable and were found in possession of it - the legal test here is 'knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that the publication is objectionable' - a maximum term of 14 years imprisonment could apply."


Mullen added, "The Court makes the final decision on the penalty in each case based on the facts before it. The Police and DIA [Department of Internal Affairs] have the discretion to prosecute (or not) depending on the circumstances of each case."

In the case of the Christchurch clip, the situation has been complicated by Google-owned YouTube's decision to allow edited versions of the footage.

"We have not classified any edited versions of the video, but we are working to support the DIA's' Digital Safety Unit who are providing advice to media organisations to support a lawful and principled approach to reporting on this matter," Shanks said.

People who see footage of the shooting video are asked to report it via this DIA site.