R v Internet Part II

Before I add my comments, you can also see some summaries at Tech Liberty NZ blog (worth subscribing to also).

Also the Twitter feed is extensive. Over 250 tweets. Is one of the best Twitter coverages I have seen as we had nine or ten people et the seminar twittering and several people not there also commenting and asking questions.

The morning session was mainly focused on contempt of court, and the afternoon on name suppression issues.

Warren Young, the Deputy President of the Law Commission, gave an overview of the recommendations from their recent report on suppressing names and evidence. He said the threshold for getting name suppression shoudl be “extreme hardship” not just hardship as at present.

Most usefully he clarified that the recommendation relating to ISPs removing or blocking suppressed material is not meant to imply an obligation on ISPs to block overseas hosted material, just to remove material hosted on their own networks.

I asked a question about whom an ISP should be obliged to act on a complaint from – my preference is it should only be if the Crown Law Office or Police inform an ISP of suppressed material.

Judge Harvey spoke about the challenges of the Internet and supressed material, but did not think the horse had bolted. He made the case that one doesn’t have to achieve perfect suppression – it is often mainly aimed at making it hard for jurors to access material not relevant to the trial.

The final panel was myself, Sinead Boucher (Group Online Editor for Fairfax) and Ursula Cheer from Cant Uni Law School. Sinead and I talked about the issues we face from a practical point of view in trying to complay with the law, and Ursula touched on how different technologies come in and out of vogue with different challenges.

Now I can’t avoid mentioning a huge fuckup I did. It was one of the rare times I was speechless as I realised what I had done. I had a few slides to go with my talk, and I was talking about the recent high profile entertainer case, and was detailing the different sites you could find out on.

The point I was making was it was not just blogs, but the name was on Yahoo Answers, MSN NZ, was findable through Google search and even on the entertainer’s facebook page. I found it amusing that the entertainer himself could be liable for breaking his own name suppression.


I displayed the above page to show the comment someone had made on the page. I pointed out to the room packed full of lawyers from the Courts, Ministry of Justice, Crown Law, Law Commission etc (plus the Judge who originally dealt with the case) how careful I had been to draw green boxes over seven parts of the page to stop my showing the page, itself being a breach of the suppression order.

I went on to say how I then realised the URL gave the name away also, so had to go back and green that out also, and then also realised two of my open tabs displayed the name, and edited the graphic for a third time to green them out.

Just as I was about to move on, someone in the audience then pointed out that sadly I had overlooked the Google search box in the Google toolbar, and to my horror there indeed was the name of the entertainer (now behind a yellow-brown box). I was mortified as the audience started pissing themselves with laughter.

I mean how much worse can it be – you are boasting about how careful you have been to not break the name suppression order, and bang the name is up on the screen in front of everyone – and especially in front of that audience.

In the general discussion at the end, there was some discussion around the role of the media committee of the Courts. The TVNZ lawyer said the committee had one rep from print media and one from broadcast media, and many in the room thought an additional rep from Internet media could be a useful thing. Of course that is a decision for the judiciary, but it was agreed InternetNZ would write to the Chair to discuss the concept.

Feedback from participants was incredibly positive, especially from many of the lawyers. A common comment was how useful it was not just having lawyers there discussing things academically, but also having media and Internet practitioners with practical knowledge. There was a strong feeling that there should be more opportunities to get the various industries together on issues of mutual interest.

Kudos to InternetNZ President Frank March who MC’d the day well to finish ahead of time, and to the InternetNZ staff who primarily organised it. And most of all to the participants – had many great contributions not just from the speakers, but from the floor.