Kiwis lose jobs for watching, sharing mosque shooting video

People have been fired for watching the livestream of the Christchurch mosque shooting at their workplace.

That's according to Cyber Research, which monitors internal computer use for around 50 companies - which include some of our biggest corporates.

Founder Steve Byrne says many companies had three to five employees who'd looked up the video at work.

He says their colleagues were surprised and upset to find out their workers were watching such a horrific video on the job.

Byrne says at least one person has been fired for watching the video while other employees were around - and others have been let go for sharing it with workmates.

Employment lawyer dubious

Employment lawyer Jennifer Mills says she thinks the sackings for watching the Christchurch clip at work could be challenged.

"I'm aware of a lot of employees trying to get access to this content out of concern," she says.

"People are grappling and trying to come to terms with the shootings, which has led some seeking to see what happened."

"We can make moral judgements about that, but the question is whether that impairs an employer's confidence in an employee or acted in a manner that's totally inconsistent with a company's culture" - the threshold for a firing rather than a warning.

An organisation would have to have a detailed internet policy that made it clear that looking at inappropriate content is grounds for summary dismissal.

"But if an employer is challenged, I'm not sure if an employer is challenged, that they'll get that across the line," she says.

Mills thinks a dismissal for watching the Christchurch clip could probably be overturned by the Employment relations authority, but she adds "It's a particularly grey area. There's no precedent."

The closest is 9/11, when many New Zealanders sought footage of the planes flying into the Twin Towers, which included scenes of people jumping from 40 floors up - though she adds the Christchurch footage is more graphic.

Mills says there could have been an emotional component to the sackings.

"People are in a state of shock. The fabric of our society has been ripped apart." An employer could have been so shocked that one of their staff was watching the clip that they immediately reached for a pink slip.

However, Mills says unless an employee was acting inappropriately - for example, by corralling others to look at the video - it's likely the ERA would overturn the dismissal.

Not just your boss to worry about

Losing your job is not your only worry if you watch the clip or share it at work.

Chief Censor David Shanks rated the gunman's video objectionable on Monday - meaning it is banned and those who share it face a fine of up to $10,000 or up to 14 years' jail.

Shanks added that it is an offence to share this material as soon as it is produced, and the timing of the official classification does not affect the ability for police and enforcement agencies to prosecute offences under the Films, Videos & Publications Classification Act 1993.

Meanwhile, Privacy Commissioner John Edwards has called on Facebook to hand names of those who shared the video to NZ police.

Edwards sees the video as an "egregious" abuse of the victims' privacy.

The social network refused to comment on his request, though did share viewing numbers and respond to other criticisms.