Text of the Tech Liberty submission to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee concerning the Harmful Digital Communications Bill. (Or download PDF of original version with footnotes.)
We believe that this Bill is based on false premises about the nature of freedom of expression and the differences between digital and non-digital speech. We see the Bill as being a well-meaning but misguided threat to the civil liberties of New Zealanders. We fear that the Bill will be ineffective in too many cases where it might be needed most, while being too effective in the cases which are most problematic to civil liberties.
We support the establishment of an agency to assist those harmed by harmful communications and believe that this will go a long way to resolving the types of situations that can be resolved.
We believe that the court proceedings are unfair and unlikely to be of much use. We support the discretion and guidelines given to the court in making a judgement, but believe that the procedures of the court need to better take into account the requirements for a fair trial.
The safe harbour provisions for online content hosts are unreasonable. While online content hosts do need protection from liability, the suggested mechanism amounts to a way that any person can get material taken down that they don’t like for any trivial reason. This section needs to be completely rethought in the context of overseas experiences to ensure that freedom of expression is properly protected.
The new offence of causing harm is poorly conceived and criminalises many communications that are of value to society. If not removed in its entirety, defences and an overriding Bill of Rights veto should be added.
We have also made comments on the changes to the Harassment and Crimes Acts.
Continue reading Submission: Harmful Digital Communications Bill