New Online Anti-Bullying Law now in Place

Could this be the end of online trolling or simply repress free expression? The Harmful Digital Communications Bill which was overwhelmingly voted through on its third and final reading last week should be coming into effect today.

The aim of the new bill is to prevent harm caused to individuals by “digital communications” and provide victims with a quick and efficient means of redress. Bullies and trolls face a fine of up to 50k or three years jail time for inciting someone to suicide.

Racist, sexist, religiously intolerant comments are covered by the law. Plus comments about disabilities or sexual orientation will also be covered.

It’s no secret that the internet is the cesspit of the human mind, so it makes sense to try and police this new frontier.

It’s no secret that the internet is the cesspit of the human mind, so it makes sense to try and police this new frontier. Every day people are being abused and even fearing for their lives when their address is posted publicly online. Add to that things like revenge porn where an ex posts nude pictures of you online and you can have a pretty hostile environment.

However this bill has had it’s fair share of opposition as it comes across ham handed and a little overreaching. There is concern that this new law will crush freedom of expression online.

In an editorial on Stuff Tim Watkins had this to say “If a current affairs investigation into a dodgy finance company offends that financier or his family… if a Fair Go report distresses some con man… or if a cartoon emotionally harms a pious soul, they now can use the law to ask for the offending item to be taken offline.”

InternetNZ chief executive Jordan Carter “If there is any sign that the good intentions behind this legislation are instead leading to unacceptable restrictions on people’s right to communicate, then quick changes will be important.”

The hope is always that these sorts of laws will protect us while online from abuse, but whether it will or not will be something we’ll only see over the coming years.


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