A New Zealand citizen faces a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison for sharing the video of the Christchurch mosque shooting on Instagram.
Christchurch local Philip Arps pleaded guilty to distributing the video, which was recorded by the gunman as he massacred Muslims and bystanders in March.
Distribution, possession, and viewing of the video and the shooter’s manifesto, which was also posted online, was criminalized by the Chief Censor of New Zealand, David Shanks just three days after the shooting.
“There is an important distinction to be made between ‘hate speech,’ which may be rejected by many right-thinking people but which is legal to express, and this type of publication, which is deliberately constructed to inspire further murder and terrorism,” Shanks said. “It crosses the line.”
Arps and one other person were charged with distributing the video less than seven days after the shooting. Arps first appeared in a New Zealand court on March 20, just five days after the shooting. It is unclear whether most New Zealanders were aware that sharing, viewing, or possessing the video had been criminalized by the time the first charges had gone out.
“It is clear that this video was ‘pushed’ to many innocent New Zealanders by various apps,” he said. “We have had reports that it also ‘auto-played’ to some people who did not even know what it was.”
While he said that those who spread the video in New Zealand risked arrest and imprisonment, he warned all New Zealanders that even innocent possession of the video was a crime.
“If you have a record of it, you must delete it,” he said. “If you see it, you should report it. Possessing or distributing it is illegal and only supports a criminal agenda.”
This may be a problem for New Zealanders who are unaware that the video or manifesto may be saved in caches or browser histories.
Having pleaded guilty to distribution, Arps now faces a maximum sentence of 14 years in jail. Prosecutors say that Arps suggested to a social media contact that crosshairs and a kill-count be added to the video, and shared it with 30 people.