IT Offensive Materials Guidelines


The IT Offensive Materials Policy and these supporting guidelines apply to all members of the University community whether at the University or elsewhere, and refer to all IT resources.


These guidelines provide further explanation and recommended best practices for implementing the IT Offensive Materials Policy.

Academic freedom

For the purposes of interpreting the policy and these guidelines, academic freedom refers to Section 161 (added, on 23 July 1990), by section 36 of the Education Amendment Act 1990 (1990 No 60):

This states:

(1) It is declared to be the intention of Parliament in enacting the provisions of this Act relating to institutions that academic freedom and the autonomy of institutions are to be preserved and enhanced.

(2) For the purposes of this section, academic freedom, in relation to an institution, means—

  • (a) the freedom of academic staff and students, within the law, to question and test received wisdom, to put forward new ideas and to state controversial or unpopular opinions:
  • (b) the freedom of academic staff and students to engage in research:
  • (c) the freedom of the institution and its staff to regulate the subject matter of courses taught at the institution:
  • (d) the freedom of the institution and its staff to teach and assess students in the manner they consider best promotes learning:
  • (e) the freedom of the institution through its chief executive to appoint its own staff

(3) In exercising their academic freedom and autonomy, institutions shall act in a manner that is consistent with—

  • (a) the need for the maintenance by institutions of the highest ethical standards and the need to permit public scrutiny to ensure the maintenance of those standards; and
  • (b) the need for accountability by institutions and the proper use by institutions of resources allocated to them

(4) In the performance of their functions the Councils and chief executives of institutions, Ministers, and authorities and agencies of the Crown shall act in all respects so as to give effect to the intention of Parliament as expressed in this section.

Protecting individual access to information

Units should take steps to protect individuals’ choice to access information without censorship and to preserve and enhance academic freedom.

While there may be some IT resources within units that are dedicated—for example, those set aside only for research or class use—system administrators will have to guard against making judgments as to the appropriateness of the content of another person’s work.

Research and instruction take many forms and may not be restricted through censorship.

Protecting individual choice not to view certain material

Units should take steps to protect individuals’ choice to not be unwittingly exposed to offensive material that may have been accessed by others. Sensitivity to others in an environment of shared resources is important.

Units should review any practices that may result in offensive material from electronic sources being left on machines or shared printers, purposefully forwarded to others who are unwilling recipients, or displayed in such a manner as to create an abusive work or study environment for others.

Potential safeguards begin with education encouraging responsible management of information that is accessed for personal use and may also include screen-saving devices on public machines and front-screen warning messages advising people of potentially offensive material.

Units should encourage individuals who are inadvertently or purposefully exposed to unwanted materials to tell the sender that they do not wish to receive the materials and ask the sender to stop.

Illegal material

Illegal material, such as child pornography, or other objectionable material from any source must not be tolerated or further distributed within the University community.

If reports or complaints regarding possible illegal material are received, the Registrar’s office must be contacted for a determination as to the material’s legality and to investigate the complaint.

Examples of breaches

Examples of behaviour that may be in breach of the University’s policy on IT access to potentially offensive material could include:

  • having examples of violent or pornographic material on open display in public areas such as the library or common rooms where passers-by are liable to be unwittingly exposed to them
  • refusing to stop displaying material that you have been told is offensive or hurtful to others
  • deliberately exposing others to material in order to offend or embarrass them


The following definitions apply to this document:

Academic freedom as defined in Section 161 of the Education Act 1989.

IT resources refers to any University owned or operated hardware or software and the data that is used or stored on it.

IT user means any individual member of the University community using IT resources.

Objectionable material means objectionable material as defined in the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act 1993 i.e. "a publication...(that) describes, depicts or 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".

Unit(s) refers to an organisational grouping across the University and includes a faculty, or research centre or service division or UniServices.

University means the University of Auckland and includes all subsidiaries.

University community includes all staff members (whether permanent, temporary or part time), honorary staff, students (whether full time or part time), contractors, subcontractors, consultants, alumni, associates, business partners or official visitors or guests of members of the University or UniServices.

Key relevant documents

Document management and control

Owned by: Chief Digital Officer (CDO)
Prepared by: IT Risk and Strategy Manager
Date approved: January 2017
Review date: January 2020