NRT: A committee of fuckwits

Written By: - Date published: 10:24 am, May 28th, 2014 - 16 comments
Categories: internet, Parliament - Tags: ,

no-right-turn-256No Right Turn looks at one of the more stupid bills to go into a select committee and to come out worse than it started.

The Justice and Electoral Committee has reported back on the Harmful Digital Communications Bill. The bill attempts to outlaw “harmful digital communications” – defined as anything causing “serious emotional distress” – and imposes a regime of court orders, takedown notices, and criminal penalties. The latter would effectively reintroduce the offence of criminal libel – but only on the internet. The committee has tinkered around the edges, and made some real (but insufficient) improvements to the takedown regime, but at the same time have left the core provisions unchanged, and in some cases – adding “threatened” breaches of communications principles, and increasing criminal penalties for harmful communications – have actually made things far worse. Effectively, they’ve defined harassment down from a repeated pattern of behaviour to a single upsetting incident – but only if it happens online, of course. They also want to impose far greater penalties for offensive behaviour on the internet than you would face for exactly the same actions on the street.

Don’t believe me? Consider this statement:

The Justice and Electoral Committee are fuckwits

If I say that to their faces, in a select committee hearing, say, I am likely to be charged, at worst, with offensive behaviour and would face a fine of $500. However, I’ve said it online, in a deliberate attempt to upset them. Which puts me on the hook for two year’s imprisonment if this atrocity passes.

Two years, vs $500 – because its on the internet and the sad old fuckwits in Parliament are scared of us and scared of our future.

(Oh, and thanks to sloppy drafting I can now be dragged off to the Orwellian “Approved Agency” and thence to court if I merely threaten to call someone a fuckwit. Again, they’re fuckwits).

It gets worse, because its not only outright insults which are covered. As TechLiberty has pointed out, the law covers publicising evidence of outright corruption by MPs – something which undoubtedly causes “serious emotional harm” to the exposed MP. There’s no public interest defence, and there’s not even a freedom of expression clause for the avoidance of doubt – unlike the non-criminal sections.

This bill is simply one long exercise in fuckwittery, which will chill our online conversation – which, given that that’s where our conversation happens now, imperils our democracy. It cannot be allowed to pass.

Justice and Electoral Committee

16 comments on “NRT: A committee of fuckwits”

  1. One Anonymous Bloke 1

    Let’s call them fuckwits in a sustained campaign. Then it will be a conspiracy to call them fuckwits.

  2. karol 2

    there needs to be a concerted and high profile campaign against this. Along with David Carter’s attempt to control people tweeting, it’s an indication of how NAct fears the public access to online avenues for democratic dissent.

    They want to have more control over the Internet – they have a good handle on manipulating the MSM, and want to have as much ability to manipulate online communcations.

    • Populuxe1 2.1

      So you’re ok with cyberbullying? Yes, this proposed legislation is full of weasel piss, but would you agree that cyberbullying is a problem that needs addressing?

      • Paul 2.1.1

        That isn’t what nrt is saying….

      • lprent 2.1.2

        Nope. This bill will probably do very little to help that problem. About the only thing in it would be having school principals acting in loco parentis.

        However that isn’t all that this bill covers as it currently stands. That is because trying to describe what cyber-bullying is in a legal sense is damn near impossible. So it hasn’t been tried

        This bill covers all material that may be offensive to someone. As an example, it’d be a great way to stifle debate on abortion. And imagine the seventh day adventists when someone looks at their beliefs about medical procedures on kids.

    • lprent 2.2

      Five National MPs out of nine on the committee? I must read that report and see what the minority said.

      Committee membership
      Scott Simpson (Chairperson)
      Paul Foster-Bell
      Joanne Hayes
      Raymond Huo
      Andrew Little
      Alfred Ngaro
      Holly Walker
      Hon Kate Wilkinson
      Clare Curran was a substitute for this item of business.
      David Clendon replaced Holly Walker for this item of business

      The minority didn’t say much apart from that the bill was rushed.

      Trying to force me to do anything on this site will just result in me not doing anything apart from hiding its location and access methods from illiterates.

      I guess it will be unpleasant going to jail for saying that Judith Collins looks corrupt, but the truth has to be said – that is what I believe. I really don’t give a damn if she doesn’t like me saying it. And I’m not going to take it down. We have legal procedures in courts for a reason.

      The reality is that most of the time merely telling a site operator about offensive material is going to be sufficient to get most actually offensive material and usually whoever wasted their time being removed from most sites. It’d be done with very little time or fuss by the operators. However this half-arsed procedure is likely to just irritate them as much as it does me because it will be mostly used by the frivolous and malicious.

      Having the idiots at Netsafe (or whoever) regarding something as offensive isn’t something that I’d respect. So far the people they have had on these types of committees would have to be regarded as complete illiterates on any kind of social media.

      Ummm. The local internet address providers aren’t going to be happy with being covered by criminal libel for something I say. Fortunately for them there aren’t many blogs actually hosted inside NZ. I’d anticipate that it’d be easier for facebook and others to just move their providers outside NZ. I guess that local hosters aren’t going to be happy with that.

      The silence as agreement to comply is pretty unique in a legal sense.

      • Chooky 2.2.1

        @ lprent

        if this legislation comes to pass with a set up majority of NACT MPS voting it in… way out is massive public disobedience on line ….a la Gandhi

        …it would very fast fill the courts and jails

        …. and hugely increase the popularity of Mana /Dotcom

      • Draco T Bastard 2.2.2

        I’d anticipate that it’d be easier for facebook and others to just move their providers outside NZ. I guess that local hosters aren’t going to be happy with that.

        National really is quite good at destroying local businesses. So good in fact I sometimes wonder if that’s their purpose.

    • Chooky 2.3

      +100 karol…it is an attack on New Zealand democracy…we are increasingly living in a police state with a dictatorship

  3. Sanctuary 3

    “…but would you agree that cyberbullying is a problem that needs addressing..?

    No. Because attempting to address it simply ends up making laws where the cops come round and arrest you for hurting someones feelings, like they routinely do in the UK now.

    Why we always turn to the coercive power of the state to deal with what are in the final analysis issues for civil society to deal with is a mystery to me.

    people should be free to be as big a dicks as they want on the internet, it is up to site administrators and business owners to police their own social media with codes of conduct and the like.

    • lprent 3.1

      Generally they tend to be pretty draconian about it. The extremely lazy and deliberately exploitive wind up like Cameron Slater – in court.

  4. just saying 4

    This sort of thing really worries me. They really are stitching us up tight.

    Let’s face it – cyber-bullying is just a pretext for taking away another of the few vestiges of power remaining to ordinary people. Expect freedom of association and assembly to be curtailed under some other pretext real soon.

  5. DH 5

    What’s the burden of proof for this “serious emotional distress”? Do they spell it out in the law or is it assumed simply from a complaint? It is highly subjective.

  6. Mr Oh Well 6

    Dont worry, the lizard people don’t have emotions, they operate on purely rational basis for good (LOL). It’s not about stifling thought or opinion only insults by the right will be allowed.
    Cant wait till they change the rules, here is an example of the lawful fun you should really be able to have.

    Here is my thinking. Now if a Justice Minister can call someone a sensitive weesusage, surely this must be OK for the general blog o sphere to use (i.e. its a precedent by the almighty justice minister herself and therefore should be lawful to use anywhere). I should imagine its ok to use the defintions and mix and match accordingly. Lets play shall we kids, lets take the insult from the Minister sensitive weesusage, and reconfigure… it still means the same thing

    1. Capable of perceiving with a sense or senses.
    2. Responsive to external conditions or stimulation.
    3. Susceptible to the attitudes, feelings, or circumstances of others.
    4. Quick to take offense; touchy.
    5. Easily irritated: sensitive skin.
    6. Readily altered by the action of an agent: film that is sensitive to light.
    7. Registering very slight differences or changes of condition. Used of an instrument.
    8. Fluctuating or tending to fluctuate, as in price: sensitive stocks.
    9. Of or relating to classified information: sensitive defense data; holds a sensitive position in the State Department.

    very small; tiny; minute
    Scot a short time.
    the act or an instance of urinating

    An item of food in the form of a cylindrical length of minced pork or other meat encased in a skin, typically sold raw to be grilled or fried before eating.

    Does this mean I could (not that I am now) call a Minister of the Crown who flung such insults at other people.

    A classified urine excreting cylindrical length of minced meat encased in a skin

    Anyone, I am not saying she is, so clearly I am not in breach. If we a playing definitions, look up SSC definition of conflict of interest.

  7. Clemgeopin 7

    If this stupid bill passes, could we then say,

    “The Justice and Electoral Committee are puckwits” or just plain “uckwits”, without defining what those words mean?

  8. RedBaronCV 8

    I haven’t really looked at this but I would have though that the standard defences around public figures and robust debate should be available. but when it comes to private individuals targeting other private individuals does it even have to be malicious?
    I may not say, want someone putting up photo’s of my house where it has been taken from another private property or my old school photo with names on it on the internet.Some people cannot seem to help themselves from oversharing information that is not theirs to share or acting maliciously .

    Why cannot an offended person issue some sort of cyber tresspass notice ( that means a take down) and the criteria has to be that it identifies them or their property , they are a private individual and there is no wider public interest in the matter.

    Maybe not well thought through or expressed.

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