New Zealand Man Gets 21 Months In Prison For Sharing Footage Of The Christchurch Shooting

from the criminalizing-being-a-jerk dept

Shortly after the Christchurch mosque shooting, the New Zealand government's censorship board decided to categorize almost everything related to the shooting (the shooter's manifesto, his livestream of the shooting, his social media posts) as "objectionable." This wasn't a case of reaching an obvious conclusion. Officially terming it "objectionable" made it a criminal act to distribute any of this content via social media or other services.

Having done that, the government wasted no time bringing criminal charges against violators. The first arrest happened only two days after the shooting, netting the government an 18-year-old defendant. The more interesting arrest was the second one, which landed Phillip Arps, a local businessman with some not-so-latent white nationalist leanings.

Arps spent the hours after the shooting refusing to condemn the violent act and -- the event triggering the criminal charges -- passing around footage of the shooting. Not all that surprising for a man whose company is named after a German prison camp and who charges $14.88 a foot for insulation installation.

Since each count against Arps could have netted him a max 14 years in prison, the final sentence seems comparatively light.

A businessman in New Zealand has been sentenced to nearly two years in prison for sharing footage of the Christchurch mosque attacks, which saw a lone gunman livestream the massacre of 51 Muslims during Friday prayers on March 15.

Philip Arps, 44, was sentenced during a court hearing in Christchurch on Tuesday after having earlier pleaded guilty to two charges of distributing objectionable material.

Arps will spend 21 months in prison for sharing footage of the shooting with 30 people. This sentence only seems reasonable in comparison to the 28 years he could have been hit with. What's not reasonable is putting someone in prison for sharing footage of a crime committed by someone else, no matter how objectionable their personal beliefs are.

The government's immediate reaction to this tragedy has been emotionally-charged. This may make for speedy legislating, but first reactions are rarely the most thoughtful reactions. The government has criminalized the sharing of content the general public is going to naturally find interesting. They will seek it out and share it -- some out of curiosity and some to continue spreading their hate as thinly as possible.

This behavior shouldn't be encouraged but it also shouldn't be criminalized. But legislators and the state censorship board saw an opportunity to make a statement -- one that came with prison sentences attached -- few in the nation would openly object to. This opportunism is going to result in some sketchy prosecutions in the future -- one far less clear-cut than the punishment of a New Zealand citizen for being an asshole.

Filed Under: christchurch shooting, free speech, new zealand, objectionable material, philip arps, sharing, video

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jun 2019 @ 6:53am

    Re: Re: Re: I no longer agree with you on this

    Because purpose is irrelevant in this case as no actual direct harm can be done.

    By that logic, hiring a hitman should be legal. After all, you're only locking the employer up for his speech, and for "a horrendous act what other people might do." The hitman's not a "mindless zombie who will simply do what he is told." So, should we lock up the person hiring the hitman? "Or should we just lock up those that commit the actual harm, do the actual crime?"

    This argument, of course, is nonsense.

    We are responsible for not just our actions, but for the foreseeable consequences of our actions. If you punch someone in the face, they land on the ground and have the wind knocked out of them, and the extent of the harm done is a black eye, you're guilty of assault and battery. If you throw exactly the same punch, but the person you have punched bangs their head against a barstool on the way down, cracks their skull open, and dies, you're guilty of manslaughter. Your actions haven't changed, but the consequences that resulted from them have.

    If your name is Ayman al-Zawahiri, and you post a video online to your followers to kill Americans, and someone acts on that to bomb the Boston Marathon, I think you should be held responsible. If your name is Sarah Palin and you paint a bulls-eye on the face of a United States Senator and someone shoots that Senator, I think you should be held responsible.

    The New Zealand government determined that this video was likely to cause more acts of extremist violence. Which, in my mind, seeing how people have reacted to the Oslo/Ut√łya attack, the Isla Vista killings, the Toronto van attack... that's not an unreasonable conclusion to draw. So they had it declared "objectionable." This asshole tried to spread the "Muslims should die" ideology using that video anyway, so he got thrown in prison for it.

    Should we lock up everybody who shares a video of car crashes because it might inspire other zombies to intentionally crash their cars? What about videos of cars driving into pedestrians?

    For the love of...

    Mens rea. Mens fucking rea. The intent doesn't just matter; in the case of nearly all crimes, it is the difference between having committed a crime or not (statutory rape and killing an endangered species being the two exceptions that come to mind).

    No, I'm not suggesting that people who post car crashes be locked up, or journalists reporting on terror incidents, etc.

    I am suggesting that when a video is made with the express intent of spreading a violent ideology and getting people killed, and then someone shares the video with the express intent of spreading a violent ideology and getting people killed, then you should start treating it as a crime. I have been nothing less than crystal clear on that.

    And I'm across the ditch. I ain't American. So it's not an "American" position.

    Fair enough.

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