NZ leads world in stand against cyber bullies

  • Judith Collins

Justice Minister Judith Collins has welcomed the first reading of world-leading legislation to stop cyber bullies in their tracks.

The Harmful Digital Communications Bill introduces a range of measures to address damaging online communications and ensure perpetrators are held to account for their actions.

“Countries around the world are grappling with the challenges presented by increased communications within the cyber-sphere,” Ms Collins says.

“The digital age has made it easier to threaten others, spread destructive rumours and publish invasive photographs online. People, especially young people, are bullied more easily, instantly, and anonymously.

“It’s time we stand up against bullies who lurk in the shadows of the internet to harass and humiliate their victims. I’m proud New Zealand is leading the world with our response to this global problem.”

The proposals in the Bill include:

  • Creating a new civil enforcement regime that includes 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 remedies such as take-down orders and cease-and-desist notices
  • Providing a legislative tool that allows people to easily and quickly request the removal of harmful content from websites and also clarifies the liability of website hosts (called a safe harbour provision)
  • Making it an offence to send messages and post material online with intent to cause harm, punishable by up to three months imprisonment or a $2,000 fine
  • Creating a new offence of incitement to commit suicide (where the person does not attempt to take their own life), punishable by up to three years imprisonment
  • Making changes to relevant criminal and civil law to ensure they cover all forms of harmful communications, regardless of whether tormentors use “online” or “offline” means. It also future-proofs the laws against technological advances, to ensure they remain relevant.

Ms Collins says criminal offences should be seen as a last resort, especially for our young people. This Bill puts in place a range of measures to both reduce harm and resolve issues in the most effective way possible.

The Bill has been referred to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee for consideration.