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NRT: National wants to jail people who expose politicians

Written By: - Date published: 8:32 am, May 2nd, 2015 - 27 comments
Categories: blogs, journalism, law - Tags: , ,

Missed this in the commotion this week – interesting post from I/S at No Right Turn.


National wants to jail people who expose politicians

Today, thanks to a post on The Daily Blog, we learned that Prime Minister John Key is a creep.

The post performed a valuable public service, exposing unacceptable behaviour from a person in a position of power. But the government is currently in the process of passing a law which would make similar posts in future illegal.

The law is the Harmful Digital Communications Bill. Section 19 of the bill creates a crime of “causing harm by posting digital communication”:

A person commits an offence if—

(a) the person posts a digital communication with the intention that it cause harm to a victim; and

(b) posting the communication would cause harm to an ordinary reasonable person in the position of the victim; and

(c) posting the communication causes harm to the victim.

For the purposes of the law, “harm” is defined as “serious emotional distress”. TechLiberty’s pointed out last year that this clause applied perfectly to the exposure of corrupt politicians, something which an ordinary reasonable person would think would cause them serious emotional distress. And it applies equally to exposing creepy ones as well. And no, there’s no public interest defence. The kicker? The National-dominated select committee has increased the penalty for this offence from three months to two years imprisonment.

The message is clear: if in future you expose the Prime Minister as a creep using the internet, you’ll be facing jail. So much for our democracy.

27 comments on “NRT: National wants to jail people who expose politicians”

  1. vto 1

    (b)pulling the ponytail would cause harm to an ordinary reasonable person in the position of the victim; and

    (c) pulling the ponytail causes harm to the victim.

    I have corrected it for the select committee

  2. vto 2

    Why is the current law about mean and harmful communications not sufficient?

    Why is the internet different from newspapers?

    Why is the internet different from the bullshitters in parliaments (Winston peters crap over the years should be prosecuted)

    Why is the internet different from other forms of communication? It is not.

    More zero credibility from the zero government

    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      The authoritarians in National and Act are concerned that they can’t control what people say on the net. Concerned that the truth will actually get out and that they won’t be able to defend against it.

    • Sable 2.2

      Because these bottom dwellers are in bed with the shifty MSM. They can’t control what ordinary people say on line however.

      • Sable 2.2.1

        This is the same stunt Abraham Lincoln pulled during the US civil war, only he was less subtle. Little known fact.

    • Tracey 2.3

      Because of the speed of proliferation… compared to say, a letter? I am just guessing.

      I also think this was to do with bullying, so includes texts.

  3. Ron 3

    Wow. If that becomes law I can see whale blubber spending a long time in custody.

  4. Bill 4

    John Key was not and is not the victim in any of this. The waitress was the victim. Was she making a communication intent on causing herself harm?

    Public embarrassment due to a public’s reaction might cause some emotional distress, but that’s a whole big step away from any digital communication.

    • Tracey 5.1

      Interesting. More interesting to me anyway, was the reference to Aristophanes using an extended finger in his play The Clouds….

      I LOVE the phrase The Thinkery.

  5. Sable 6

    Yet more creeping Fascism from the National Anti Socialist party of New Zealand.

  6. red-blooded 7

    While I can see the benefit of a public interest provision, I’m afraid I also see the benefit of this bill as it applies to the general public. I work with teenagers who can be emotionally devastated by bullying, gossip and name-calling on the internet. It is a really significant issue and is the most common kind of bullying. This can lead to more than hurt feelings; the impact on self-image, emotional stability, relationships with others, engagement with learning and even physical health can be enormous. I have known kids who began self-harming as a response to this kind of campaign of nastiness. And why have a bill specifically for digital communications? Because anyone can get on-line and say anything, it’s very public, it can be repeated endlessly rather than dying away, and it’s all too often anonymous. That’s very different from other kinds of publications (which are already governed by libel and other laws, and by professional standards).

    So, sorry to disagree, but I think there should be at least a decent attempt to reign in the power of digital bullies. The bill may well not succeed, but that doesn’t make it a bad thing to try.

    • vto 7.1

      The internet is already governed by same libel and other laws, the problem is one of prosecution and enforcement.

      Bullying can easily be libel but who on earth is going to take court action over it? Nobody, given the total impracticalities of it….
      … so then who would prosecute and enforce under this new legislation??? Exact same ‘total impracticality’ applies doesn’t it? (except for the powerful and rich, surprisingly…)

      So while good intentions may reside in the legislations authors the issue is already governed by laws and the problem is one not addressed by this legislation, namely prosecution and enforcement.

      • red-blooded 7.1.1

        Other forms of publications are also governed by professional standards and bodies like the Press Council. I know the penalties imposed by these bodies are often pretty pathetic, but there is a public renouncement of whatever comments caused offence and were shown to be in breach of agreed standards. At the moment, there’s no equivalent for digital communications and it’s a much tougher issue as so much of what’s published is posted by ordinary people like you and me (as opposed to professionals, governed by agreed standards) and (again like you and me) is anonymous or under a pseudonym.

        I’m not necessarily defending the detail of the new bill, I’m just saying that I do understand why it’s seen as necessary. Plus, unless I’m really missing something, I don’t see how the original post about the PM’s actions would fall under this bill. It could easily be argued that the intention of the publication was to share a personal story, rather than to cause harm to the PM. And the reporting of any attempt to shut down the story by the PM or his office prosecuting a young woman for sharing this story would be even more harmful than the reaction to the original post. Even if there was some kind of court order about reporting the issue directly, the overseas media would have a field day with it, and then our media would report on that.

        • Draco T Bastard 7.1.1.1

          At the moment, there’s no equivalent for digital communications…

          That’s probably because we don’t actually need anything different for digital communications. Why would we when they’re almost the same rules except for the addition of the word ‘digital’?

          Because anyone can get on-line and say anything, it’s very public, it can be repeated endlessly rather than dying away, and it’s all too often anonymous.

          That’s just it. It’s not anonymous for most people. The ISP has name and billing address which is available to the police via a warrant. The majority of people can be easily tracked on the net.

          The problem isn’t that the rules don’t exist, they do, but that the majority of people can’t afford to hire a lawyer and take action against the bullies which really means that we need another solution. A solution that this government has been reducing even further via it’s changes to “Family Court procedure and the cuts that have occurred to the legal aid budget which might mean more litigants in person are entering a system that was primarily designed for represented litigants.” As VTO points out, the rich won’t have any problems taking people to court about an issue even if they’re in the wrong. Would we know about FJK’s actions around hair pulling if the waitress was in serious danger of being sued into eternal poverty?

          Further we need to consider the effect of ever more precise laws producing ever more loopholes that people can wriggle through. Broad laws that cover anything that resembles the action that we want to regulate will be caught whereas narrow laws tend to let stuff through.

    • Rosemary McDonald 7.2

      “…and it’s all too often anonymous. ”

      Which is why the bullies thrive in the internet environment.

      red blooded.. there is no doubt that the internet has magnified manyfold the ability of the bullies to exert their power. The consequences can be tragic. We allow children almost unfettered access to technology that has the same potential for harm as alchohol, drugs, cars, sex. Perhaps their should be an age limit? Perhaps some sort of licensing system whereby the applicant can prove they have an understanding of the rules of decent behaviour?

      What are the young people you are working with saying? How would they fix/prevent the problem?

      But….I don’t believe for a second this legislation is aimed at protecting teenagers from on line bullying.

      Not for a second.

  7. Tracey 8

    Isn’t this the Law so ironically championed bY Collins to combat cyber-bullying?

  8. ropata 9

    Depressing and dangerous: Global press freedom has reached lowest point in 10 years. via @FreedomHouseDC #WPFD2015 pic.twitter.com/Y7kHOsqp2m— Taryn Wilson (@Teedubbleyou) April 30, 2015

  9. Charles 10

    What about politicians who inadvertently expose themselves?

    Message on Facebook….

    “HI, do you remember me, I served you tea last Spring… you tugged my hair.”

    “O Hai! Yes I remember that little bit of ‘horseplay’ “.

    BAM. Into the dungeon for you, fool.*

    *this wouldn’t happen because NZ law only applies to people below the rank of burgermeister.

    NB: A burgermeister is not someone who runs a BK franchise, although it is possible to be both.

  10. One Anonymous Bloke 11

    I wonder whether the National Party has thought this through. How are they going to win elections if they can’t employ hate speech?

    Edit: Slater, Plunkett, Henry will all be looking for work…

  11. Steve Withers 12

    Time to have another look at TOR.

    • Sable 12.1

      TOR was developed originally for the US military. But if you still think it is safe, give it a go…

  12. Maui 13

    Ok, so there are tons of angry facebook posts/messages directed towards politicians. Does this mean it becomes illegal if said politician takes offence?

    • Sable 13.1

      That would seem to be the case. At the very least it is designed to intimidate people who may have legitimate grievances and have no other medium they can use to express them. Especially given how untrustworthy the MSM keep showing themselves to be. Of course this is all hidden beneath a PC veneer about bullying, designed to misstep the public as to the legislation’s real goal.

  13. esoteric pineapples 14

    It means anything put online that causes “emotional suffering” could be up for two years in prison from a Facebook comment on a friends page to a Fairfax print media story that is also put on Stuff.

  14. linda 15

    ive got felling they will target information that could affect the economy (vested interests ) scientist and researchers could be targeted as economic vandals affecting NZ when the facts differ from the governments (keys bullshit)PR, governments get sensitive about the truth as we approach economic collapse facts become dangerous .

    • Sable 15.1

      You have it in one. An unintended consequence of this may be people coming together face to face and forming opposition groups as used to happen. This is how Labour came about before they sold out to the right.

      All in all letting people blow off steam on the net is far less a threat. So this is not really a smart move but then smart and Tory are not close friends…

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