Review good, framing of it bad

October 14th, 2010 at 3:46 pm by David Farrar

has announced a review of new media:

Justice Minister Simon Power has asked the to review the adequacy of regulations around how the Internet interacts with the justice system.

“I’ve ordered this review because it’s imperative the law keeps pace with technology and that we have one set of rules for all news media,” Mr Power said.

I am a supporter of there being a review, and have in fact advocated for it. But I have to say the way the Minister has framed it is regrettable and rather confrontational.

First of all it may make a nice slogan, but the status quo doesn’t have one set of rules – broadcast media have very different rules to print media.

“At the moment we’ve got two tracks – conventional media and the so-called ‘new media’ – intersecting with the justice system, and it’s not sustainable.

“It’s a bit of a Wild West out there in cyberspace at the moment, because bloggers and online publishers are not subject to any form of regulation or professional or ethical standards.

This is another slogan which means little (and remember I do actually favour a review). First of all bloggers are subject to the law – as have been demonstrated of late. The notion of regulating bloggers (beyond the normal requirement to obey the law) or imposing some sort of “professional standards” on them is ridicolous fancy. Bloggers are simply citizens having a say. Simon Power makes it sound like he thinks you should have to apply for permission to have a voice online. Now that may not be Simon’s intent, but the way he has framed this issue is incredibly bad.

“Issues I’m concerned about include how trials can be prejudiced by information posted on websites and seen by jurors, real-time online streaming of court cases, breaches of court suppression orders, and re-publication of a libel.

Issues which I helped facilitate discussion of at last year’s R v the Internet seminar. They are good issues to discuss.

It will focus on whether either of the two existing industry watchdogs – the Broadcasting Standards Authority and the Press Council – could provide a suitable vehicle for regulating unregulated forms of new media.

Yeah, and lets also give them the power to fine MPs if they say nasty things on their Facebook pages.

Having said that, it is worth noting the Press Council is self-regulation, not external regulation. One could discuss options such as allowing bloggers to voluntarily sign up to the Press Council, if they wish to do so as a way to enhance their reputation. But you then have issues around who covers costs of the Council – considering most blogs are non-commercial.

Mr Power says the public will have the opportunity to have their say when the commission releases an issues paper by December next year.

That is December 2011? Good – this should not be rushed.

As I said I am pleased the Law Commission is doing this review, as there are potentially even benefits for bloggers in it. But the way the Minister’s press statement has framed the issues is not good, and likely to rub a lot of people up the wrong way.

I will be advocating to the Law Commission, and , that they look to convene some workshops next year to discuss and define some of the issues.

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16 Responses to “Review good, framing of it bad”

  1. Jack5 (5,053 comments) says:

    Bloggers will respond by going international – using international servers, using sympathetic overseas bloggers, and moving frequently. The lawyers could try to censor incoming data on our few international cables, but what about satellite traffic? There have to be a hundred ways around censorship, as Beijing is finding.

    I don’t think Internet NZ should be dipping in its oar either. Surely its task is technical, not to be judge of what we can read and post.

    However, I hope Power, the Law Commission, and the lawyers and politicians in general do attempt to throttle free expression. As in China, blogs will be more interesting, more intriguing when they are clandestine. It will also breed a new type of hacker, hopefully as adventurous as the Dutch guy who hacked the TV station autocue (see following Kiwiblog thread).

    So, bring it on, Power.

    [DPF: InternetNZ's mission is to protect and promote the Internet in NZ. A move to regulate what people say online is about as relevant as you can get.]

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  2. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    “It’s a bit of a Wild West out there in cyberspace at the moment, because bloggers and online publishers are not subject to any form of regulation or professional or ethical standards.”

    And its working well. Stay the hell out of it Mr. Power.

    Rather have the wild west any day than the crushed-under-the-socialist-jackboot east.

    Politicians- who the hell needs these interfering regulating self promoting bastards? When will they ever stop poking their friggin noses in, and stop promoting the fantasy that they should be monitoring our ethics. What a joke. Hardly an ethic among the lot of them.

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  3. Nick R (507 comments) says:

    A touch of King Cnut syndrome, methinks.

    Silly Cnut.

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  4. big bruv (13,725 comments) says:

    Can you imagine what Labour would do if they could regulate the internet?

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  5. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    No need to imagine.

    Just look at Red Alert.

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  6. Craig Ranapia (1,915 comments) says:

    It’s a bit of a Wild West out there in cyberspace at the moment, because bloggers and online publishers are not subject to any form of regulation or professional or ethical standards.”

    I’m sure Cameron Slater is wishing the Minister of Comedy had shared that little factoid with Judge David Harvey…

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  7. Dazzaman (1,138 comments) says:

    It’s a bit of a Wild West out there in cyberspace

    And to a degree it should remain so…

    Cameron Slaters recent troubles indicate that the law has enough teeth. A reactionary Justice minister…not a good look.

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  8. Grant Michael McKenna (1,159 comments) says:

    Apparently, because Facebook is hosted on US servers, people in NZ cannot be prosecuted for “hate speech” in terms of Section 61 of the Human Rights Act 1993 for posting material, as we are technically sending our status updates to the USA, where they enjoy constitutional protection of their freedom of speech, and our status updates are then bounced back to our country by a third party [Facebook].
    Grant celebrates this legal loophole by stating that Justice Minister Simon Power is being very, very silly.

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  9. gravedodger (1,552 comments) says:

    Next they will come after us in the home, the pub, the club and anywhere else that free citizens meet to discuss the current matters that affect us.
    Nearly all of Slaters attacks were, imho, very justifiable. Here in the village of the dammed we have a 50 something GP who used his position to have sex with a 16 yo girl, rape victim, and the med.disc.trib. fined him $1000, costs of some $3000 and gave him name suppression.
    \It is too easy for those in positions of power(pun intended) to manipulate the freedom of information and this just shows how the pamphleteers must have made authorities “piles bleed” so many years ago.
    Freedom of expression is not the threat, censorship and media control is.

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  10. CharlieBrown (1,003 comments) says:

    I’m concerned that Mr Power seems more worried about what information IS published rather than what information the courts allow to be published.

    For instance, the name suppression of that DJ earlier this year, the suppressed details of Michael Curran’s previous murder, the suppression of the fact that Brad Shipton and Bob Schollum were already in prison for sex offenses, David Bains planning of how he would kill people when he was younger. All the above examples are of how the courts got it completely wrong, and from what Simon Power has said, it seams like they aren’t looking at reviewing that side of it.

    Plus, can anyone tell me if it would be illegal to get someone in Russia to setup and manage a new website called NZSuppressionBlock thats sole purpose is to stop the out-of-date legal system from enforcing out-of-day suppression orders?

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  11. Chthoniid (2,043 comments) says:

    I agree on the value of a review.

    I note you didn’t touch on the issue of harassment, which was also brought up Mr Power.

    Sadly I’m finding out that trying to escape a serious stalking issue, is being hindered by the transnational aspects of it. Getting the NZ police, Interpol & the RCMP to address the problem is not proving straightforward. Current legislation has a very local, domestic focus, overlooking the ease with each stalking & harassment can be across international borders.

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  12. db (22 comments) says:

    I suspect Figjam’s terms of reference stem from a naïve understanding of how computers and the Internet work. Filter advocates and all others who want to restrict freedom of information seem to suffer from this same myopia. There is already one blogger in Australia openly flouting New Zealand name suppression and if the laws that arise from the review process are perceived to be unreasonable, he will quickly be joined by others elsewhere who are less open about who they really are. Anyone who truly understands the Internet understands that bloggers cannot be hammered into submission. They have to be asked nicely, and given good reasons for their cooperation.

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  13. John Gibson (295 comments) says:

    “Bloggers are simply citizens having a say. ” – until they want access to press only events. Can’t have it both ways.

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  14. John Gibson (295 comments) says:

    “Cameron Slaters recent troubles indicate that the law has enough teeth. A reactionary Justice minister…not a good look.”

    Not really. Slater is carrying on in a similar vein this week so clearly the penalty wasn’t big enough.

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