Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search

 


"Better Digital Citizens" - Law Commission on Cyber Bullying

"Better Digital Citizens" - Law Commission on Cyber Bullying


Press Conference on Combatting Harmful Digital Communication - 15th August, 2012

Scoop Audio+Video+Photos

By Mark P. Williams

Today the Law Commission announced its draft of a report on what it calls 'harmful digital communication' or 'cyber bullying'. The report was announced by Hon. Sir Grant Hammond, and Professor John Burrows who outlined the rationale and recommendations of the report.

Sir Grant Hammond indicated that the report had been of interest to several ministers and departments including Minister of Justice Judith Collins, who had spoken to the Prime Minister to expedite the report. He added that coroners, the Police and the PPTA had all also indicated their interest in the report. Sir Hammond said that 1 in 10 respondents from a sample of 750 surveyed by the Law Commission said they had encountered "harmful speech" on the internet.

The report defines harmful digital communication as forms such as threats, harassment, dissemination of intimate personal visual recordings and incitement to suicide. It recommends a "four limbed" approach: the creation of a new criminal offence for "bad digital communication"; the amendment of existing statutes; the establishment of an authority to enable takedown and cease-and-desist orders; and some suggested changes to the legal regime for New Zealand schools.

Sir Hammond and Professor Burrows indicated that the central distinction made by the proposed new Tribunal would be "causing serious or substantial harm" via digital communication. The draft bill defines this as: A person using digital media for sending or causing to be sent, to another person, matter that is "grossly offensive", "of an indecent, obscene or menacing character" or "knowingly false" (Amendment to Section 21 of the Summary Offences Act 1981).

The amendment (Section 21A) gives the evidential requirement for prosecution as intent to cause "substantial emotional distress"; or that the sender, Person A "knew that the message or other matter would cause Person B substantial emotional distress"; or the message is such that "would cause emotional distress to someone in Person B's position" and "Person B in fact saw the message or other matter in any electronic media". It adds that "It is not necessary for the prosecution to establish that the message or other matter was directed specifically at person B".

Sir Hammond and Professor Burrows acknowledged that while there may be some question of subjectivity in determining the absolute limits of what is "grossly offensive" in most instances it would be clear whether the message was intended to and likely to cause genuine harm. The specific amendment says that several factors are to be taken into account when determining whether a message is to be considered "grossly offensive", these are listed as:

(a) the extremity of the language used:
(b) the age and characteristics of the victim:
(c) whether the message or other matter was anonymous:
(d) whether the message or other matter was repeated:
(e) the extent of circulation of the message or other matter:
(f) whether the message or other matter is true or false:
(g) the context in which the message or other matter appeared.

Both Professor Burrows and Sir Hammond emphasised that the primary intent of the report was to establish a protective framework to bring the law up to date with the existence of social media, and that it was largely a question of minor adaptation of existing legislation such as the Privacy Act and the Harassment Act to cope with digital forms.

Schools and the protection of children against abusive online behaviour are the major concern of the report. Professor Burrows suggested the development of "IT contracts" between pupils and their schools agreeing to specific ethical codes which could be enforced by the school.

Sir Hammond and Professor Burrows were questioned on the scope and threshold on what would constitute an offense. They responded that they saw it in terms of preventing the dissemination of materials that would cause "real harm" by violating the rights of the person. Asked whether New Zealand was lagging behind the times with these measures, Professor Burrows said that the UK has had a similar set of measures for twenty years.

They said that at heart the legislation was intended to help encourage everyone, from school age upwards, to become better digital citizens.

****************

Click a link to play audio (or right-click to download) in either
MP3 format or in OGG format.

****************

****************



Left Sir Grant Hammond; Right, Professor John Burrows


Click for big version.


ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Valerie Morse: Key And NZ Police At G20: What A Contribution

While 200 New Zealand police officers are helping to repress protests outside of the G20 in Brisbane this week, John Key has been inside pushing the interests of giant multinational corporations to fast track the World Trade Organization (WTO) ... More>>

ALSO:

Gabriela Coutiño: Ayotzinapa Caravan Meets With EZLN In Oventic

In their visit to Zapatista Territory, parents of the 43 students disappeared from Ayotzinapa Guerrero, agreed with the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), to articulate a national grassroots movement that would question forced disappearances ... More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Talk Of A Third Intifada: Where To From Here, Palestine?

When a journalist tries to do a historian’s job, the outcome can be quite interesting. Using history as a side note in a brief news report or political analysis oftentimes does more harm than good. More>>

ALSO:

David Swanson: Who Says Ferguson Can't End Well

Just as a police officer in a heightened state of panic surrounded by the comfort of impunity will shoot an innocent person, the Governor of Missouri has declared a state of emergency preemptively, thus justifying violence in response to something ... More>>

Melanie Duval-Smith: Homeless Is Where The Heart Is

So, you are not allowed to feed the homeless on the streets of Florida. Last week, a 90 year old man and two Christian ministers were arrested for doing just that. I can hear the cries of the right wingers from here. “Not in our back yard”, ... More>>

John Chuckman: What We Truly Learned From the Great War and the Absurdity of Remembrance Day

No matter what high-blown claims the politicians make each year on Remembrance Day, The Great War was essentially a fight between two branches of a single royal family over the balance of power on the continent of Europe, British foreign policy holding ... More>>

Redress Information: A European Call To Suspend EU-Israel Association Agreement

More than 300 political parties, trade unions and campaign groups have called on the European Union to suspend its “association agreement” with Israel. The agreement, which came into force in 2000, facilitates largely unrestricted trade with Israel ... More>>

Ramzy Baroud: The Age Of TV Jokers: Arab Media On The Brink

As I was finalizing my research for this article, I found myself browsing through a heap of hilarious videos by mostly Egyptian TV show hosts Tawfiq Okasha and Amr Adeeb. More>>

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news