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InternetNZ backs Harmful Digital Communications legislation, suggests improvements

InternetNZ has released its submission to Parliament’s Justice and Electoral committee on the Harmful Digital Communications Bill (HDC Bill). The organisation is broadly supportive of the HDC Bill but does have concerns – particularly about the difference in treatment it will create between online and offline speech, and in the details of the proposed safe harbour provision for online content hosts. These concerns are shared by multiple other organisations and individuals who have also submitted.

In its submission, filed on Friday, InternetNZ sets out its support for the Bill. “This legislation is aimed at fostering good digital citizenship, something that is increasingly important as more people are spending increasing amounts of time online,” CEO Jordan Carter says.

“The primary focus is on education and resolving disputes through an Approved Agency. This is the right approach to developing digital citizenship and safe and respectful online behaviour, education is far more likely to lead to better behaviour than punitive responses alone could hope to manage.

“The Roast Busters scandal last year was one high-profile example showing that some New Zealanders need assistance in dealing with harmful communications, while those victimised by cyber-bullying need an avenue to seek redress. With some minor tweaks, the HDC Bill will provide those,” Mr Carter says.

Mr Carter says that there are some concerns with the Bill, but that these amount to technical challenges and improvements that are catered for by amendments suggested in InternetNZ’s submission.

“The HDC Bill, as it stands, does raise some potential issues relating to Internet intermediary liability, such as when an individual posts comments on Facebook. Parliament needs to make sure it takes great care to create a regime that supports innovation and new service development, while meeting the objectives of the Bill to mitigate harm from digital communications. There are also some questions around human rights that we think are worthy of the Select Committee’s attention.”

InternetNZ, the non-profit agenchy that administers the .nz domain and lobbies for a free, uncapturable internet, has asked to speak at Select Committee on the Bill and looks forward to working with the committee and the Government to help bed in a framework that can help deal with the reality of the online world.