In our recent article, Law Commission Demands ISPs Filter the Internet, we wrote that the Law Commission’s report Suppressing Names and Evidence required internet service providers (ISPs) to be able to block access to information hosted on overseas websites.
At the R v Internet seminar in Wellington, Warren Young, Deputy Head of the Law Commission, stated that this was not their intention (while admitting it was badly worded). Rather they only intended for local ISPs to have to take down locally hosted information. While this is somewhat of a relief as it means that we can avoid the necessity of implementing a China-style Internet censorship system, there are still a number of problems with this position.
- It puts the burden on ISPs to remove material when the onus should be on the people who have published the material (i.e. the individual blogger or the site that allowed the comment in their forum). Putting the liability on the ISP is like blaming the local dairy owner for the content of the newspapers they sell.
- Many websites that are popular in New Zealand, such as Facebook and Twitter, are not hosted in New Zealand. While it might be possible to make requests to the individuals discussing suppressed information (and even act against them if they are in NZ and can be identified), this is going to be as successful as King Canute was at stopping the tide.
- While ‘responsible’ bloggers and media companies may take down material suppressed by the NZ courts, this just means that anyone searching for information will find the myriad of ‘irresponsible’ sources who probably don’t even realise they’re in contempt of court.