Statement: Livestream and manifesto of the Buffalo attacker now included in the TCAP

The New Zealand government has banned the livestream and the manifesto of the far-right terrorist who killed 10 people in a gun attack in Buffalo, New York, on 14 May 2022. The New Zealand Classification Office initially classified the attacker’s manifesto as objectionable on 15 May, followed by the 6 minute 52 second livestream video of the attack on 16 May. This criminalises the possession and distribution of both of these publications.

In line with the legal basis of the TCAP’s Inclusion Policy, the TCAP will now alert the Buffalo attack perpetrator’s manifesto and livestream to tech companies when we find it on their platforms. This will be alongside the Norway attacker’s manifesto and material produced by the Christchurch attack perpetrator, all material which has been previously banned by democratic governments and whose authors have been referenced as inspiration in the Buffalo attacker’s manifesto. You can find our full Inclusion Policy, which includes material produced by designated far-right and Islamist terrorist entities, here.

Grounds for banning the manifesto:

New Zealand’s Classification Office has classified the livestream and manifesto, on an interim basis, under its Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993, section 3(1) as objectionable content. This makes it illegal to possess, host, view, or distribute the manifesto. Objectionable content is defined as content that “describes, depicts, expresses, or otherwise deals with matters such as sex, horror, crime, cruelty, or violence in such a manner that the availability of the publication is likely to be injurious to the public good.” The law gives particular weight to the consideration in whether the material 3(3)d, promotes or encourages criminal acts or acts of terrorism.

These classifications were made based on an interim decision process that was put into law following the March 15, 2019, attacks in Christchurch, meaning a final classification decision with more detailed reasoning will be released “in due course.” However, Acting Chief Censor Rupert Ablett-Hampson assesses that the livestream “celebrates the killing of innocent people” and reaches the objectionable threshold as it “depicts acts of extreme violence and cruelty, and is comparable to the livestream from the March 15 mosque attacks.” Ablett-Hampson notes his concern around the inspirational role played by the Christchurch attacker and related material (Christchurch livestream and manifesto), which was clearly stated in the Buffalo attacker’s manifesto.

We applaud the government of New Zealand for their pro-active and transparent reaction to the concerning spread of this material online. We also commend the Classification Office for taking strategic leadership in criminalising this material, ensuring that tech companies have the clarity and legal grounding to remove such content from their platforms. We believe it is imperative for governments and tech companies to act quickly following these crises to disrupt the spread of these materials and limit their potential for inspiring similar copycat attacks, as sadly shown by the Buffalo attacker drawing inspiration from the Christchurch perpetrator's manifesto and attack.

Given the material is now deemed objectionable, the viewing, making, and distributing of the manifesto and livestream is illegal in New Zealand. Hosting such material is also illegal, and the Chief Censor (the Chief Executive of the Classification Office) can require tech companies to block access to the manifesto and livestream in New Zealand. Failure to comply can be sanctioned with a fine.

If you would like to read more on New Zealand’s online regulation, please see our latest blogpost on New Zealand for the Online Regulation Series.

NOTE: As of June 15 2022, the New Zealand Classification Office permanently banned the Buffalo mass shooting livestream and manifesto.