A digital bill of rights

March 10th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

David Cunliffe announced:

Citizens will have their access to the internet guaranteed and be protected from blanket mass surveillance under ’s proposed digital bill of rights, Leader and ICT spokesperson David Cunliffe says.

“Kiwis are technology-savvy people who rely on the internet for fundamental daily activities such as banking and communicating with friends, family and colleagues.

“Unfortunately the legal framework to protect New Zealanders’ online hasn’t kept up with the pace of technology.

“Labour will work with stakeholders to develop a digital bill of rights which would address these concerns while making New Zealand a more stable and secure place for businesses to use and store data.

I think in principle this is good idea, although of course details are key. It would be good to have perhaps a draft published before the election, so it can be critiqued.

“The highlighting of international mass surveillance by Edward Snowdon and concerns around the practices of our own Government Communications and Security Bureau has left many Kiwis feeling their online information is vulnerable.

“Such legislation would protect people from the digital equivalent of warrantless phone tapping. While it wouldn’t override current GCSB powers, it would set a principle which would be used to replace the Government’s controversial new legislation.

I’m unsure if this means any change at all. Yeah, Nah maybe.

“It would also guarantee freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion, while still outlawing hate speech.

No Right Turn points out that hate speech is not currently outlawed, so this could be interpreted as leading to more censorship:

This sounds good – but its actually an erosion compared to what we have at present. Those freedoms, whether offline or on, are currently protected by the BORA. But hate speech isn’t outlawed in practical terms (there is a crime of inciting racial disharmony, but there was only a single prosecution under the 1971 Act, and the consensus now is that the BORA has made it almost impossible to prosecute). So that “still” hides a massive crackdown on online expression. It may be expression we don’t like, that we find hateful and offensive, but that doesn’t justify outlawing it, any more than it justifies outlawing rickrolling. Which means the answer to Labour’s proposal has to be “no thanks”. Protect freedom of speech unambiguously according to BORA standards or piss off.

And so what should be a hands-down policy win for Labour turns into a mess, because they took a good idea and poisoned it, in the process alienating the very groups the policy was aimed at winning support from. Heckuva job you’re doing there guys. Good luck with that election-thing.

InternetNZ has commented:

InternetNZ (Internet New Zealand Inc) says that parts of Labour’s proposed Digital Bill of Rights are excellent, but parts of it may be unnecessary.

InternetNZ supports guaranteeing New Zealanders’ access to the Internet. InternetNZ CEO Jordan Carter believes that this is crucial discussion to have, given the importance of Internet access to modern day living.

“Getting online is becoming essential and those who are unable to do so are at risk of becoming second-class citizens. Enshrining a right for all Kiwis to be able to access the Internet is something a modern-day society should be looking at. Whether legislation is the right answer or not aside, the issue is an important one.

“We want to see more thinking from our political parties on how to close New Zealand’s digital divide and we look forward to working across the political spectrum to provide New Zealand with the strongest digital future we can.”

In its press release, Labour also said that the new Bill of Rights would “guarantee freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion while still outlawing hate speech.” Mr Carter says that New Zealand has law in force that already does this.

“In New Zealand we have the . Many of the issues outlined in Labour’s proposal – and indeed in the Harmful Digital Communications Bill – could be solved if we re-worked the Bill of Rights for a 21st Century New Zealand. There is no reason to think that laws governing behaviour online should be different to laws offline.

I think the intent is good, and that having a discussion over whether we should have a digital bill of rights is a good discussion to have. I support Labour’s initiative in this area, but again the key is what actually goes in the DBOR. Make it too general and it may have no impact. Make it too specific and you could have the Government having to fund Internet connections for every household. The challenge is to find that sensible balance.

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22 Responses to “A digital bill of rights”

  1. rouppe (983 comments) says:

    They probably want to create a government controlled “KiwiWeb” ISP, and in Greens true-to-form fashion, get rid of other ISP’s because “they aren’t necessary”.

    And be very careful when a left-wing group says “outlaw hate speech” when it is them defining what is hate-speech. If the Electoral Finance Act is anything to go by, it will be anything that Labour don’t agree with.

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  2. Harriet (5,201 comments) says:

    “……I think the intent is good, and that having a discussion over whether we should have a digital bill of rights is a good discussion to have….”

    With respect it’s not a good idea David.

    As we will then have a ‘Bill of Rights’ discussion on everything – from salt to camenbert.

    Typical Labour using ‘Bill of Rights’ and ‘Kiwi’ to brand all their policies. Well that’s how I see it.

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  3. davidp (3,585 comments) says:

    We’ll be free from surveillance, except “it wouldn’t override current GCSB powers”.

    We’ll have freedom of speech, except anything defined as “hate speech” will be banned.

    But then Labour also reserve the right to ban web sites that don’t pay off a Labour government, like Facebook. And they’ll make the internet less affordable by taxing it in order to subsidise the entertainment industry.

    For a Bill of Rights, they’re not actually codifying any rights. The policy is confused.

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  4. marcw (260 comments) says:

    All public city council libraries already provide free internet access. You don’t even have to be in your own home city – just roll up, sit down, start browsing. Three years ago when I had to be in Wanganui for 6 weeks, I did all my correspondence, banking, bill paying essentials without having any other access to the internet where I was staying. So it’s nothing new, and I didn’t pay any extra for the service back then.

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  5. Ed Snack (1,940 comments) says:

    I know of someone living way off the road network up the back of Martin’s Bay, care to “guarantee” their right of access to the internet ? I think this will be used to take-over (or at least substantively control) the Communications infrastructure in NZ, because without that control the guarantee is worthless.

    Put it simply: Stupid Idea from barrow pushers, there should be NO “right” to access the Internet

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  6. wat dabney (3,849 comments) says:

    It would also guarantee freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion, while still outlawing hate speech.

    So, a complete contradiction in terms then.

    This is in fact a license for state censorship.

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  7. Barnsley Bill (848 comments) says:

    I look forward to the labour front bench digging a 3 k trench so that I can join the UFB community in the cable that goes up the highway. It’s my right innit.
    Left wing govt deciding what is hate speech? Goodbye kiwiblog.

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  8. Albert_Ross (337 comments) says:

    That’s an important point from marcw. What exactly does “a right to be able to access the internet” mean? What currently prevents any New Zealander from being able to access the internet? If it is that coverage is limited where they live, or that they can’t afford or don’t want to pay for it, is that something that Government can or should expect to address?

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  9. Huevon (229 comments) says:

    Fucking Labour.

    Can they not just leave the internet alone? It doesn’t need regulation, it doesn’t need “rights”, it doesn’t need to be taxed to pay for Leftist pet projects. Why can’t David Cunliffe just fuck off.

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  10. Komata (1,220 comments) says:

    Most curious, and, of course having absolutely nothing to do with the visits by certain Labour IT- spokespeople to a Coatesville address….

    Cynical that I may be, but I have noticed that whenever socialists say that there will be ‘no more of something’ it invariably means the reverse, so be very, very careful about endorsing this, especially as (from memory), there was a labour party proposal to both ‘put internet access into every home’ and ‘give internet access to all’.

    Universal control is very easy in such situations, and we only have to look at Communist China to see how it is done…

    At its simplest it is a vote catcher, nothing more and nothing less. the tragedy is that Gen Y’s and their ilk will probably fall for it.

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  11. Dave_1924 (121 comments) says:

    @macrw – free internet access? If you don’t have your own machine/device? Not in Lower Hutt… Free wifi yip – but using the PC’s in the Libraries is $2 an hour…

    Basically I don’t think this necessary.

    If Internet access is an issue for someone – they can solve it, why have another government intervention??? Yip it might cost $2 for an hour online – but its not inaccessible.

    Taxing ISP’s to support content producers? Yeah, Nah- that will quickly become a political football with dosh handed out by a Liberal, left leaning committee to worthy, if you live in Aro Valley, content producers. Content is spewed forth at the moment and no intervention is needed

    Having a crack at what you can say online in terms of hate speech? Is that necessary and who defines hate speech? I find the Google search “why are Dutch” auto filled to Why are Dutch so Rude offensive – but should we ban that question? Where does it end??

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  12. Grant (286 comments) says:

    And just who gets to define what is, and isn’t, hate speech?

    Sounds like another job for Geoff Palmer.

    Yeah Right.
    G

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  13. Harriet (5,201 comments) says:

    “….Taxing ISP’s to support content producers?…..Having a crack at what you can say online in terms of hate speech?…….”

    TVNZ/Pravda all over again.

    The internet has been around since the mid 90’s – about 20yrs – and how serious has the ‘hate speech’ in NZ been in that time?

    There is no ‘hate speech’.

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  14. georgebolwing (1,011 comments) says:

    No David, this is a stupid idea.

    We do not need the “right” to the internet, any more than we need to right to a telephone, or the postal service, or newspapers, or the village crier, or the travelling story-teller, or any other form of communication.

    It devalues those very important things which should be accorded the status of fundamental rights; like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In time, we will end up like Europe, where everyone has the ‘right’ of access to a free placement service (Article 29, EU Charter of Fundamental Rights).

    That labour has included “hate speech” as something to be outlawed shows their true conservative nature: you have the right to agree with the majority. This is not liberty. Liberty does not come from the majority. It is not something that can be bestowed by the elite or the rulers. It is innate.

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  15. wiseowl (979 comments) says:

    Gee, I thought a digital Bill of Rights had something to do with giving the finger legitimately.

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  16. ShawnLH (6,693 comments) says:

    I have a proposal for a real bill of internet rights. Get rid of the State.

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  17. UglyTruth (4,554 comments) says:

    What exactly does “a right to be able to access the internet” mean?

    It could be construed as a licence for unlawful use of the internet.
    If would be absurd to interpret it as referring to lawful use since the default condition is that the law implicitly permits lawful use.

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  18. ShawnLH (6,693 comments) says:

    “Hate speech” is so subjective that it is impossible to regulate. Then again, most things are.

    The reality will be that “hate speech” will be defined as whatever offends Cultural Marxists, apologists for Islamic terrorists, radical Maori activists, homosexuals and feminazis.

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  19. peterwn (3,335 comments) says:

    Whole trouble with ‘rights’ it gives excessive rights to criminals, protesters, troublemakers, etc to the detriment of the ordinary person who wants to get on with life.

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  20. OneTrack (3,372 comments) says:

    “This sounds good – but its actually an erosion compared to what we have at present.”

    Ok, that doesn’t sound good.

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  21. Komata (1,220 comments) says:

    ShawnLH

    Congrats – you have has defined the matter of ‘Hate Speech’ very well, and yes, this is probably what will happen should such a ‘regulation’ be enacted.

    it is significant, but not unsurprising that labour is now bringing this up – with the intention of ‘protecting’ ‘minorities’ (especially Islam BTW – the group which uses any such legislation most; and alway for its own purposes).

    Observation indicates that this is the path that socialists inevitably follow, in their pursuit of their intended ‘One World’ Government (always their ultimate goal).

    It should also be noted that (based-upon what has occurred in other Western’ countries – especially the USA and the UK), that the target of the ‘hate speech’ regulations will be very specific – the members of the Christian faith, a group who’s belief -systems will not permit them the ‘bow down and worship’ the new order that the socialists want to create.

    It’s not a matter of ‘if’ it’s a matter of ‘when’, and if labour can’t get the regulation into force openly, there are other ways…

    Our country could be in for an interesting time…

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  22. Daigotsu (471 comments) says:

    InternetNZ CEO Jordan Carter needs to learn to shut the fuck up. Noone cares what this useless Liarbour stooge thinks.

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