Independent review finds systemic racism at InternetNZ following Māori threat video

4:39 pm on 29 November 2022
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An eight minute video posted on YouTube last May which encouraged the slaughter of Māori stayed up for nearly 24 hours despite authorities, including InternetNZ being alerted. Photo: 123RF

An independent review has found systemic racism at InternetNZ, which saw it react too slowly to a video that encouraged the slaughter of Māori.

The review found not enough was done by authorities to remove the YouTube video, which remained online for nearly 24 hours after being posted last year.

Two wahine Māori resigned from the InternetNZ council in protest at how the organisation handled online harm towards Māori.

As a result, InternetNZ brought in an independent expert, Dr Hana O'Regan, to review the organisation's policies.

Chief executive Viv Maidaborn - who is new to the role - told Nine to Noon it was clear the organisation, which oversees the .nz domain name, could have been more proactive.

"Internet New Zealand had a pretty clear policy that they were separate from content and over the last ten years that's become harder and harder to do," she said.

"Because online harm has grown and, in the end, the action was just too slow."

In the past the organisation had viewed itself as purely technical, to maintain the .nz domain, but the reality was often far different, Maidaborn said.

In confirming evidence of racism, Dr O'Regan recommended InternetNZ apologise to those who raised concerns.

One of those was the Māori digital rights expert, Karaitiana Taiuru, who told Nine to Noon that InternetNZ needed to do far more to curtail online harm directed at Māori.

The company would regularly fall back on the excuse of policy when Māori concerns were raised, he said. On other matters of policy, such as the Christchurch Call, it was heavily involved.

"There's numerous other issues," he said.

"A number of years ago I asked InternetNZ to create macrons for internet addresses. That involved a long process where basically a number of non-Māori were consulted and on the advisory group, this despite the Māori language being an official language of New Zealand."

The company had the contacts and influence to put things into action faster, Taiuru said.

"There's a bigger role that could be played," he said.

"In my opinion, the Harmful Digital Communications Act has failed Māori. There was no engagement or consultation with Māori, and I strongly believe that Internet New Zealand is the only organisation that has the influence to actually solve this issue and bring everyone together."

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