The Cyber bullying law and Dirty Politics

Written By: - Date published: 1:58 pm, July 1st, 2015 - 36 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, Deep stuff, democracy under attack, Media, the praiseworthy and the pitiful - Tags: , ,

On the left we are all busy people.  Our activists are trying to balance work and family and the desire to make the world a better place.  Our bloggers are trying to say or post something profound and take care of all of their other stuff like their jobs at the same time.  Our MPs are doing their best to do their job with the limited Parliamentary Services funding and no other funding that they have and improve the life force of their party.  It feels occasionally that we collectively do not respond to issues as quickly or in as principled a manner as would be ideal.

Yesterday the Cyberbullying Law was passed.  This law is untested but it says ( I think) that if you are mean to someone on line and cause them serious emotional distress and would have caused an ordinary reasonable person distress then you may be committing an offence.

I saw this graphic last night online.  It is one of those perfect Crosby Textor focus group graphics that you cannot fail but to admire.

National cyber bullying graphic

Get that?  If confronted about Dirty Politics National can now say it is doing something.

Perhaps Cameron Slater should be afraid of the new law although no doubt some on the right will think that the Standard is somehow worse than Whaleoil.

What rankles is that National has perfected the art of cyberbullying.  They have poured resources into online attacks on their opponents as well as impartial civil servants and academics and managed to get the main stream media to act as nodding heads and repeaters.

Suddenly they are the solution?  The left’s desire to engage rationally in the debate about the bill and try to make the bill somehow better is understandable but they should have realised that this was all a PR job and should have opposed it as a threat to the freedom of speech.

National is obviously relying on the shortness of peoples memories.  According to them dirty politics did not happen and the left do it anyway even though no proof exists.  National’s legislation is designed to stop the completely unacceptable and contemptible sorts of attacks that National engaged in.

It makes you wonder however about the left’s handling of the matter and the dissident Green MPs who voted against the bill did us all a favour.

This particular bill is a PR smokescreen to try and reduce the negative effect of Dirty Politics.  We should have seen this and we should have called it for what it is, instead of thinking the best of National’s intentions and trying to improve their bill.  Tim Watkin is right, the law is poorly drafted, will have a chilling effect on media reporting and cartoons, and is an example of cynical politics.

I wait with anticipation the first case under the legislation.

36 comments on “The Cyber bullying law and Dirty Politics”

  1. dukeofurl 1

    Slater has so many court or tribunal appearances, so I guess he will be posterchild for this one as well.

    Hes moved upmarket to target journalist who get under his thick skin now

  2. “This law is untested but it says ( I think) that if you are mean to someone on line and cause them serious emotional distress and would have caused an ordinary reasonable person distress then you may be committing an offence.”

    Plus intent.

    • mickysavage 2.1

      Yep always (well almost) need intent! This will hopefully protect media in that their intent is to present a story rather than cause harm. I anticipate that some sort of bad faith aspect would need to be proved. But the simple way to handle this would be to keep the bill simple (ban inciting to suicide or the posting of intimate photographs). Right now the lawyers are going to have a field day trying to work out what it means.

      • Too right. As I said somewhere else here today, the precedents are really going to determine the true nature of this law.

      • tinfoilhat 2.1.2

        I agree MS although i would also add a ban on inciting violence.

        • lprent

          Think about it carefully.

          Effectively replacing something like the sedition law as a generic law against activists.

          If you advocate striking and posting pickets outside of workplaces that workers are striking from – are you advocating violence? Even if you don’t say that? Because such situations have in the past resulted in violence.

          Or suggesting that people wear team colors when going to a sports match. Sometime violence ensues. Were you advocating violence by suggesting that people wear such gang patches?

          The problem with open-ended idiotic laws like this one is that they aren’t specific enough. If you want to add something like “a ban on inciting violence” then you’ll need to be quite specific or wait a long time for the courts to provide limits.

          Laws like this need closed parameters – not ones that are wide open to abuse decades down the line.

          A good example was my niece getting charged, convicted, and eventually having the conviction overturned for a ‘intimidation by loitering’ clause in the Crimes Act 1981. It was highly debated in 1981 and the government of the day assured parliament it would only be used for gang members loitering outside of the premises of shopkeepers.

          So how did the police, nearly 30 years later, use it for peaceful and law abiding protesters outside of a shop? Because the National idiots then didn’t write the law to do what they said it was intended to prevent. As far as we are aware, that is the ONLY time that stupid law was ever used – for the ‘wrong’ purpose. It cost $30,000 to reverse that.

          I suspect that this law will be exactly the same. Just a case of Judith Collins masturbating her ego up as she produced a stupid law for publicity reasons (like the rather useless “crusher” law), and then fools in parliament putting in a law that will be used way way outside of the purposes that they recorded in Hansard. I suspect that the instances of its use for the purposes stated in the record will be minimal simply because it will be too hard legally.

          Perhaps we should make MPs and their estates liable for costs incurred in correcting their damn stupidities.

      • Kevin 2.1.3

        How do you prove intent? For example if I say someone should kidnap the PM’s daughter and rape her [deleted] and someone does rape her I could argue that I had no intent to cause harm to the PM’s daughter – I was using hyperbole to make a point. Who’s to say I wasn’t?

        [While I understand the point you’re making, Kevin, there are many alternative ways of putting that argument that don’t involve invoking violence against women. Please don’t do that again. And I think you’ll find that ‘incitement to violence’ is already a crime anyway, so the ‘intent’ defence probably has a precedent somewhere in NZ law, which will probably be quoted the first time there is case taken under the new Act. TRP]

        • maui

          • Weepus beard

            Awesome! There’s a new TV series being filmed in Auckland at the moment.

            • maui

              That’s pretty cool it’s being shot here too! Lucy Lawless looks to be making an appearance too, I can imagine her in them.

              • Weepus beard

                Yes, the NZ Film and TV industry has had a welcome boost lately with the fall of the NZ dollar because we are largely an export industry.

                If I may make the point here, the NZ Film and TV industry is very professional at the coal face because we have excellent and very dedicated and tight-knit crews. The exchange rate and incentives dictate the level of interest by overseas productions but local crews, local production companies, and the accessibility of locations are very important too.

                This year alone NZ has hosted a major Disney feature for children, Pete’s Dragon; the new MTV series, the post-apocalyptic Shannara; and the STARZ production mentioned above, Ash vs Evil Dead.

        • Charles

          Fails under principles, 2, 3, 4.

          (And probably just general sensitivity. Look dude, unless you’re new here or move in circles that hasn’t ever heard of what’s up, don’t pick examples like that to post round here. You might find yourself out the door.)

  3. Gangnam Style 3

    Now we all have to be nice & polite & correct to each other, ‘its political correctness gone mad!’ or something. I’d hate to see the cartoonists silenced, they more often than not are the only dissenting opinions in the media.

  4. Charles 4

    Welcome to the new way of doing things under the Harmful Digital Communications Bill. Here’s a general summary:

    The communication principles are—

    Principle 1
    A digital communication should not disclose sensitive personal facts about another individual.

    Principle 2
    A digital communication should not be threatening, intimidating, or menacing.

    Principle 3
    A digital communication should not be grossly offensive to a reasonable person in the position of the affected individual.

    Principle 4
    A digital communication should not be indecent or obscene.

    Principle 5
    A digital communication should not be used to harass an individual.

    Principle 6
    A digital communication should not make a false allegation.

    Principle 7
    A digital communication should not contain a matter that is published in breach of confidence.

    Principle 8
    A digital communication should not incite or encourage anyone to send a message to an individual for the purpose of causing harm to the individual.

    Principle 9
    A digital communication should not incite or encourage another individual to commit suicide.

    Principle 10
    A digital communication should not denigrate an individual by reason of his or her colour, race, ethnic or national origins, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.


    In performing functions or exercising powers under this Act, the Approved Agency and courts must—
    (a)take account of the communication principles; and
    (b)act consistently with the rights and freedoms contained in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

    In determining whether a post would cause harm, the court may take into account any factors it considers relevant, including—

    (a)the extremity of the language used:
    (b)the age and characteristics of the victim:
    (c)whether the digital communication was anonymous:
    (d)whether the digital communication was repeated:
    (e)the extent of circulation of the digital communication:
    (f)whether the digital communication is true or false:
    (g)the context in which the digital communication appeared.

    The court must see a pattern of behaviour, and that behaviour in its least form being “a threat of a serious breech, likely to cause harm”. How courts measure “likely to cause harm” might be something for Tracey to answer. However, the act also allows Police to advise the court that no one really was or will be all that harmed, so no hearing required after application, no further action taken. It all sounds too familiar already; it’s like the whole Act has been written to stop Nicky Hagar publishing another book; assist attacks on political opponents to the incumbent party; and lift protections out of the reach of average people.

    The one golden nugget in this otherwise Lawn Cigar Act is this though: The age and characteristics of the victim. If you could find a court sympathetic to your politics, you could argue that there are no politicians who can be offended by harmful digital communications – the bar is already far too high. It would take an awful lot to deeply offend Winston using usual potty-mouth methods, for instance. And could you prove that some of the legal libel word games he likes to play over things no one understands are those of a “reasonable person”?

    So theoretically, this Act might not be able to be abused by powerful politicians in the same way that they already make their actionable transgressions “disappear”. It all rests on what the Police and courts are told (I mean, “influenced”) to do of course, so good luck with that.

    The people who voted to support this Act can argue a lot of small points of relevance – and that was always the case, it wasn’t a bad idea overall, just unfinished – but what they can’t argue away is that they have given more power to a government who abuses power almost every week, and is becoming increasingly paranoid about dissent – just wait for 2017. From that point of view, no one should have supported this bill. Party principles of democracy in an increasingly unprincipled world are admirable, but the larger context was forgotten: During an all-out class war, you don’t act like everything is peachy and install unfinished laws to adjust later at your leisure. There may be no Later.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 4.1


      Well put, Charles. Thanks for posting the Principles.

      At least it’s subject to the BoRA, in particular S14:

      Freedom of expression
      Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.

    • Tracey 4.2

      well said charles…

      collins must be thrilled it is not retorspective

  5. maui 5

    Isn’t the poster meant to say:

    “Bully the Government or any of our MPs online and you could face two years in prison.”

  6. Puckish Rogue 6

    Well Cameron Slater thinks its a very poor piece of legislation:

    So its nice to see theres sometimes common ground 🙂

    • Tracey 6.1

      of course he doesnt… read charles post above. slater ticks so many boxes. his business model is threatened. gareth hughes otoh gives a shit about kiwis.

  7. esoteric pineapples 7

    First rule for this government is never to trust this government ON ANYTHING!

  8. JonL 8

    Want to see how quickly politicians suddenly become thin-skinned precious little bundles…….

  9. Dave_1924 9

    Not a fan of this piece of legislation and National pushing it through was dreadful. Labour party whip voting for it as well was rubbish. Though I note Ms Ardern said lets come back and look at in a year

    David Seymour argued against the HDC from the get go to his credit.

    The Greens at least had 4 MP’s who had enough nads to vote against. Its not often I applaud Dr Norman but well done that man plus Gareth Hughes, Julie Anne Genter and Steffan Browning.

    • tc 9.1

      This is not the opposition you are looking for, simply gutless. The hollowmen must be loving this.

      • Dave_1924 9.1.1

        To be frank TC I think as a collective the opposition parties have been pretty weak since the last election. Hell, National has stumbled like a drunk on Courtney place at 3am on a Sat night and not one of them have managed any sort of decent move in the polls or held them to account on any of the stumbles in a meaningful way.

        the opposition is missing in action drawing salary and racking up super benefits….

    • b waghorn 9.2

      I wonder if Seymour would of opposed it if national had of needed his vote.

  10. tc 10

    “National is obviously relying on the shortness of peoples memories…”

    like they have to great success every GE they get voted in with assists from a docile owned MSM.

  11. Get that? If confronted about Dirty Politics National can now say it is doing something.

    I do get it. What I don’t get is why Labour and most of the Greens helped them with the project. I expect National to try and fuck me up the arse, but it’s beyond disappointing to have Labour and the Greens lining up behind them (oops, I think I just committed an offence).

  12. Charles 12

    Here we go. Hey guess what, the discussion of the HDC Act isn’t an excuse to make specific reference to as many sexual/potentially offensive/illegal acts as possible. geez. must be full moon.

  13. Robert Guyton 13

    Since Fairfax cleaned out its stable of cartoonists, bar one, there’s not been a single cartoonexposing lampooning Key.

  14. Emelia Lovett 14

    They got rid of John Campbell, now we losing our right to free speech, they already bully people to death, next the pricks will be popping people off!

    Our government has so much class!

    Judith, John, they come from what you call ‘proper breeding’.

    • Sable 14.1

      If you consider the cuts to welfare and housing, people are no doubt dying…

  15. Chooky 15

    Cactus Kate and Possum Hooton will be in for the high jump if it used retrospectively ….and I expect the Slater it will be in for a hundred years of jail

    ….but then Slater could incriminate some others we all know …like his bestest friends in the Beehive…girls and boys… and in particular the one he had a good direct line to…the one who boasted of having a top drawer full of unsavoury stuff….

    where will it all end I ask myself

  16. Sable 16

    If you look any Fascist state this is pretty much the same process they utilize. Legalize spying on people, undermine journalist standards and gag any who step out of line and then take away freedom of speech. Lets see what comes next……

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