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Collins Comments April 5

Collins Comments

I remember a time, not that long ago, when the internet was rarely talked about, mobile phones were the size of small bricks and a tweet was the sound birds made.

Today the rapid growth of new technologies and communication channels such as text messaging, Facebook and Twitter means we now have access to information at our fingertips and are able contact each other, anytime, anywhere.

Unfortunately it also means that bullying can occur anytime, anywhere. Bullying is no longer confined to the classroom or playground as tormenters can harass their targets 24 hours a day, seven days a week, wherever they go, and the trail of abuse lives on in cyberspace, following victims for years.

This week I announced a raft of new proposals to protect victims of cyber bullying and hold perpetrators to account including:

• Creating a new civil enforcement regime that includes setting up or 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 sanctions such as take-down orders and cease-and-desist notices.
• Making it an offence to send messages and post material online that is grossly offensive, indecent, obscene, menacing or knowingly false, punishable by up to 3 months imprisonment or a $2,000 fine.
• Creating a new offence of incitement to commit suicide, even in situations when a person does not attempt to take their own life, punishable by up to 3 years imprisonment.
Amending the Harassment, Privacy and Human Rights Acts to ensure they are up-to-date for digital communications. In some cases, existing laws were written before cell phones, instant messaging devices and social networking websites became common communication channels.
These new measures send a clear message to cyber bullies: Time’s up. Your behaviour is not acceptable.

I’m sure I speak on behalf of many New Zealanders when I share my concerns about the devastating effects cyber bullying has, particularly on our young people.

No one should ever be subject to this kind of cowardly attack and now with the right support and modern laws in place, victims will no longer have to suffer.

Hon Judith Collins
MP for Papakura

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