Web abuse line gets 100 calls on first day

10:09 am on 22 November 2016

NetSafe - the group appointed to deal with online abuse - received about 100 calls yesterday after opening its assistance phone line for the first time.

A hand enters account details on a laptop (file)

Photo: TEK IMAGE / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / ABO / Science Photo Library

The independent non-profit organisation receives government funding to provide a free, seven-day-a-week service to help people.

Executive director Martin Cocker said between 20 and 30 of the calls it received yesterday were about what would be considered offences under the harmful digital communications law.

"NetSafe was given two additional responsibilities or expansion of its responsibilities through the act. One is the expansion of the education programme and the other is this assistance line for people who are being harassed online," Mr Cocker said.

He said that for something to be legally considered harmful digital communication, it needed to be aimed at an individual rather than a group, breach one of the 10 communications principles drawn from New Zealand law and actually cause serious emotional distress.

"Online abuse and harassment takes all sorts of forms obviously, some of those things are what's often referred to as revenge porn or sexploitation.

"Some of that stuff is what people might consider to be low-end defamation. These things are all captured under the Act and there are ways under the Act to address them."

He said if NetSafe received a complaint it considered to fall under harmful digital communication, it would try to find a resolution by contacting the digital industry or the offender to remove content.

The idea was to make the removal of such content faster and easier to avoid having to take the matter to court, although that could still happen if the content remained.

He said the line would be staffed between 8am and 8pm during the week, and between 9am and 5pm on the weekend. There was also a website where people could log complaints 24/7.

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