30 Dec 2012

Internet groups at odds over online bullying bill

4:04 pm on 30 December 2012

Leading internet organisations are at odds over whether a bill targeting online bullying and harassment will squash freedom of speech if it becomes law.

The Ministry of Justice is finalising a policy paper on harmful digital communications after the Law Commission drafted the Communications (New Media) Bill.

The draft bill proposes that an approved agency will resolve complaints and more serious issues will go to a tribunal with the power to order material off the internet.

InternetNZ believes the bill risks freedom of speech because people with particular agendas will claim opposing opinions on the internet are defamatory.

The organisation, which aims to promote the internet, says a tribunal swamped by vexatious claims will have little time to deal with genuine harassment.

Online safety organisation Netsafe is expected to become the approved agency and says the Law Commission has carefully thought through those issues, and there will be a high threshold for action.

It says criticism of the draft bill is premature because it has to go through the usual approval process before becoming law.