Jonathan Penney, the Cyberlaw Fellow at Victoria University gave a public talk about the idea of "internet as a right" and whether there is any basis for this in current New Zealand law.
He started by looking at s14 of the 1990 Bill of Rights Act. This is about freedom of expression:
Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.
The Ministry of Economic Development recently asked for submissions on the topic of digital enforcement in the ACTA treaty. We submitted a submission, as did 33 other organisations and individuals.
We requested copies of them under the Official Information Act; here they are in PDF format (we'll do another post with the earlier submissions):
Last week we announced that the New Zealand internet filter had "gone live" and was now being used to filter the connections for users of two ISPs (Watchdog and Maxnet), with more expected to follow.
The obvious question has to be, why was Tech Liberty announcing something that the Department of Internal Affairs had done? Where was their announcement that the filter had gone live on the 1st of February? Don't civil servants have a duty to communicate to the people that they serve?
When the internet filter was announced, one of our primary objections was that it was a secret censorship scheme. The list of banned sites was kept secret and there was no oversight of the entries on the list. As the experience of Australia and the UK has shown, this tends to lead to abuse as sites are blocked for no good reason. It also conflicts with the general thrust of the rest of NZ's censorship regime in which all decisions must be published.
Being believers in open and accountable government, we made a request under the Official Information Act for a copy of the filtering list and the inspector's reports that were used to justify adding sites to the list.
The Department of Internal Affairs refused our request for a copy of the list:
The Law Commission is continuing its run of reviewing significant laws (Search and Surveillance Bill, Suppression of Evidence report). This time it's the turn of the Official Information Act 1982. Their work is at a very early stage - they're canvassing views in an attempt to come up with an issues paper to guide further discussion.