Cyber-bullying

Judith Collins has announced:

  • Creating a new civil enforcement regime that includes setting up or appointing an approved agency as the first port of call for complaints.
  • Allowing people to take serious complaints to the District Court, which will be able to issue sanctions such as take-down orders and cease-and-desist notices.
  • Making it an offence to send messages and post material online that is grossly offensive, indecent, obscene, menacing or knowingly false, punishable by up to 3 months imprisonment or a $2,000 fine.
  • Creating a new offence of incitement to commit suicide, even in situations when a person does not attempt to take their own life, punishable by up to 3 years imprisonment.
  • Amending the Harassment, Privacy and Human Rights Acts to ensure they are up-to-date for digital communications. In some cases, existing laws were written before cell phones, instant messaging devices and social networking websites became common communication channels.

This is mainly based on the report, but with a key difference.

The Commission recommended a specialist Communications Tribunal, instead of the District Court. I think it is better to have it as part of the District Court, as there is less concern about scope creep.

I have no issue with the proposed law changes above, however one area remains a concern:

The FAQ says: The Government proposes adopting the 10 statutory principles recommended by the Law Commission, which are based on criminal and civil law and regulatory rules.

This is the area which concerns me the most. The principles are:

  1. A communication should not disclose sensitive personal facts about an individual.
  2. A communication should not be threatening, intimidating, or menacing.
  3. A communication should not be grossly offensive to a reasonable person in the complainant’s position.
  4. A communication should not be indecent or obscene.
  5. A communication should not be part of a pattern of conduct that constitutes harassment.
  6. A communication should not make a false allegation.
  7. A communication should not contain a matter that is published in breach of confidence.
  8. A communication should not incite or encourage anyone to send a message to a person with the intention of causing that person harm.
  9. A communication should not incite or encourage another person to commit suicide.
  10. A communication should not denigrate a person by reason of his or her colour, race, ethnic or national origins, religion, ethical belief, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.

I blogged last year on a legal analysis of the principles, and I think some are too wide-reaching.

I would encourage people to read the proposed law when it is introduced, and make sure they submit to select committee.

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