Newly released emails reveal high level communications between Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's office and Facebook bosses in the immediate aftermath of the Christchurch mosque attacks.
The correspondence, released to the Weekend Herald under the Official Information Act, highlights significant fears about material Facebook was set to release after the massacre, which police said was critical to their unprecedented criminal investigation.
In a statement, Ardern said Facebook kept in regular contact with her office in the days after the attacks, including a phone call between herself and Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg.
The revelations come a day after accused gunman Brenton Tarrant pleaded not guilty to murdering the 51 victims in twin mosque attacks on March 15, which sent shockwaves around New Zealand and throughout the world.
The 28-year-old Australian national also denied the attempted murder of 40 others and a charge laid under the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002.
He appeared yesterday in the High Court at Christchurch by audio visual link as dozens of survivors and grieving relatives packed the court to see the accused murderer's face.
The planned release of information by Facebook, which sparked high-level Government concern, detailed parts of the social media giant's response after the mass killing was live-streamed on Facebook, the newly released emails show.
The information that caused so much concern was redacted, but an email from Ardern's chief press secretary, Andrew Campbell, to a Facebook official showed the Prime Minister's office was worried about it being made public. Campbell said he wanted to run the information past police before it was released.
"I can see this post causing significant concerns and contains information relevant to the police investigation," Campbell said in a March 18 email.
The post was a timeline of what Facebook knew when and what it did in response, particularly around the video, according to Facebook director of policy in Australia and New Zealand Mia Garlick.
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Three bullet points were redacted, but a fourth said at 2.31pm on March 15 law enforcement contacted Facebook. Nine minutes later, the video was taken down. The first 111 call about the attacks occurred at 1.41pm.
In a later email, Campbell said: "It was the initial times that alarmed me."
Campbell told the Weekend Herald to the best of his knowledge the information in question had never been publicly released.
The OIA showed that after Campbell asked Garlick to hold off releasing the information, another email said Campbell had made a "really useful intervention" and "police are very grateful". The sender's name was redacted.
It also said Assistant Police Commissioner Richard Chambers phoned Garlick to say some information should not be publicly released as it was critical to the investigation.
The emails about the redacted timeline are among a wide array of communication between Government officials and Facebook in the days after the attacks. The first email came at 2.39pm — eight minutes after Facebook was contacted by law enforcement.
In it, Garlick emailed Campbell and Ardern's then-deputy chief of staff, Rajesh Nahna, to express her "deepest sympathies" and update them on Facebook's actions, which included removing the accused gunman's Facebook and Instagram account, and any praise or support.
On March 18 she said Facebook wanted senior representatives to meet Ardern, later confirming talking points including Facebook's actions to stop the video's spread and how they could work together to stop online hate.
The meeting never took place in New Zealand, but Ardern met Facebook VP of Global Affairs and Communications Nick Clegg in Paris.
Ardern told the Herald the Government wasn't receiving regular reporting now in the way it did after the attacks, but was still regularly engaged with Facebook.
Today is three months since the mosque shootings.
Inside the courthouse yesterday, families of victims held cuddly toys and each other, they fixed their gaze on the alleged gunman, and they gasped when he entered not-guilty pleas through his lawyer.
Outside the courthouse, survivors and family members of those who died talked about how important, but how hard, it was to attend the hearing.
The accused has been almost completely out of public sight since the attacks, after which he was whisked to Auckland's Paremoremo Prison.
His appearance filled the High Court with those still deeply affected by the attacks — reserved seating for 80 in the public gallery was supplemented by two overflow rooms with a video link.
The accused gunman, in a grey sweatshirt and straining to hear, constantly looked around, but would not have been able to see the public gallery. He gave a slight smile when his not-guilty pleas were made.
Many were visibly upset during the man's short appearance, although they waited until they were outside the courtroom to express their outrage.
But there was also a strong desire to see the accused in court. Abdul Aziz, widely hailed as a hero for confronting the alleged gunman with an eftpos machine and chasing him away from Linwood Islamic Centre, said being in court was "very hard".
But he would be back for the next hearing, an August 16 case review, and every hearing between then and the trial, which begins May 4 next year.
"We are getting there slowly. But it will take time. Days like today bring it all back."
Outside court, Aziz was met by a man allegedly playing "Nazi music" and making racist remarks. Rodrick Wayne Woods was arrested and charged with behaving in an offensive manner.
Judge Tom Gilbert later bailed him to June 28 to enter a plea , and gave the 33-year-old a serve when he questioned how he could abide by a bail condition to stay away from the mosques when he normally biked past one.
"You go the long way," Judge Gilbert replied.
Linwood Mosque Imam Alabi Lateef Zirullah said he was in court yesterday to see the man accused of killing seven of his congregation. The experience left him "feeling nothing".
His community was still emotional, hurting and raw: "No one is in a good situation, nobody feels good. It has not got any easier."
Yesterday's hearing, which attracted a large domestic and international media presence, also addressed two mental-health assessors' reports. Both found the defendant was fit to plead, instruct counsel and stand trial, Justice Cameron Mander said.
The Crown believed the trial could last about six weeks, but defence counsel Shane Tait felt it could take up to three months.