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

 

Open Source, Open Society: More Than Just Transparency

Bill Bennett: “Share and share alike” is the message parents drum into children. But once they grow up and move out into the wider world, the shutters start to come down. We’re trained to be closed. Dave Lane, president of the New Zealand Open Source Society, says that explains the discomfort people find when they first encounter the open world. More>>

ALSO:

Werewolf: Journalism, History And Forgetting

Compare that [the saturation coverage of WWI] not just with the thinly reported anniversaries last year of key battles in the New Zealand Wars, but with the coverage of the very consequential present-day efforts to remedy the damage those wars wrought, and the picture is pretty dismal. More>>

ALSO:

Werewolf: Climate Of Fear

New Zealand, promoting itself as an efficient producer, has been operating as a factory farm for overseas markets with increasing intensity ever since the introduction of refrigerated shipping in 1882. The costs to native forests and to bio-diversity have been outlandish. The discussion of impacts has been minimal... More>>

ALSO:

Greek Riddles: Gordon Campbell On The Recent Smackdown Over Greece

There had been a fortnight of fevered buildup. Yet here we are in the aftermath of the February 28 showdown between the new Syriza government in Greece and the European Union “troika” and… no-one seems entirely sure what happened. Did the asteroid miss Earth? More>>

ALSO:

Keith Rankin: Contribution Through Innovation

The economic contribution of businesses and people is often quite unrelated to their taxable incomes. EHome, as a relatively new company, may have never earned any taxable income. Its successors almost certainly will earn income and pay tax. Yet it was eHome itself who made the biggest contribution by starting the venture in the first place. More>>

ALSO:

A Public Conversation: Reinventing News As A Public Right

Alastair Thompson: Oh how the mighty have fallen. Once journalism was possibly a noble profession, though that is certainly now, to quote our Prime Minister, a 'contestable' notion. It certainly seemed at least a little noble when I joined the ranks of reporters in 1989 . But ... More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news