Harmful Digital Communications Act Takes Effect In New Zealand

The Internet has been known to be a convenient medium in providing a wide array of services such as eBay – a place for shopping, Upwork – for freelance opportunities, or the web design in Perth – rendering services for success of the business-driven ones. However, not only is the word “internet” associated with services that are ultimately for the comfort of the people, but a negative concept such as cyber-bullying has also been constantly attached to it.

The Harmful Digital Communications Act, a law that took effect early July in New Zealand, was said to place in jail for two years anyone who is found guilty of inflicting harm via posting digital communication. According to reports, this will include posting nude, semi-nude photos, truthful and false information causing harm. Apart from imprisonment, there will also be a fine of $50,000 (NZ) and as high as $200,000 (NZ) for businesses.

Gareth Hughes, one of people strongly against the law said that the exact definition of the word “harm” was undeniably unclear and added that having this law will definitely affect journalism in a negative way, as journalists are not exempt from it. He elaborated that journalists being subject to this law may prevent them from publishing truthful reports on the web about corrupt official, as reports of this kind may be judged as causing harm. According to Hughes, there is no sense in labelling something as illegal online while the exact same material will be considered legal when published elsewhere like in the newspapers or magazines. New Zealand’s Dominion Post, similarly, was concerned about political scandal reports not finding its way to the public in the online world. Having understood what the law was about, the Dominion Post raised the question of whether cartoons mocking religious figures are still going to be allowed.

The proposal of the bill which led to the said law was encouraged by the dreadful Roast Buster incident which took place in Auckland, where underage girls had been sexually abused allegedly by a group of young men under the influence of alcohol, and were even found bragging about it through online postings. The bill reportedly passed by a landslide victory of 116-to-5 vote in the New Zealand Parliament.

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