A new hotline to report cyber hate and online “trolls” has seen 300 Kiwis make complaints in the first five days of the service going live.
Revenge porn, defamation and harassment have all been reported to New Zealand’s online watchdog NetSafe since the organisation launched its new anti-cyberbully service on Monday.
The move is a push to enforce the Harmful Digital Communications Act, passed by lawmakers last year to make cyberbullying a criminal offence. That includes any abusive text message, writing, photograph, picture, recording, or other material communicated electronically.
NetSafe executive director Martin Cocker is pleased victims of online abuse are stepping forward, with an average of 50 calls a day being made to his watchdog.
“About 40 per cent of our work appears to be related to what the law defines as Harmful Digital Communications.”
I know most of you don’t try it on here, as it will be the last thing you’ll do. But some of you are proud about the carnage you leave elsewhere. Just be warned that your adversaries will be laying traps just so they can put in a complaint about you.
It is time to stop treating the Internet like a cesspit where you can say anything to anyone. Not just here, but elsewhere too.
Anti-cyberbullying legislation means police can be engaged where necessary and court action can also be triggered. Cocker says more than 80 people have been charged under the act but no cases were referred to police in the first week of the hotline.
“What’s reassuring is watching the team work through complaints with people and start to put resolutions in place. We’re only into the first few days but already have a number of cases now under way.
“We have had a few of them concluded where we’ve been able to assist the people have harmful content removed, or the person who produced it has said they will voluntarily remove it – recognising it was harmful. That’s a good outcome.”
Boosted to 24 staff, Cocker says half of those are manning NetSafe’s phones as part of the $3 million-a-year service, funded by the Justice Ministry.
Personally I don’t think that the Harmful Digital Communications Act was a good piece of legislation. Government should have just updated the crimes act. I don’t envy Netsafe people having to get in between the thousands of dysfunctional relationships where there is considerable history of wrong-doing on all sides. But there will be the odd exessive incident where it trips the Criminal treshold.
Just be smart. Most things you write on the Internet hang around for a long time. It builds history that can be used against you. Your adversaries get a chance to cherry pick and re-cast your words with their own narrative.
That’s just general advice, really. But now that the SBJs have a new toy to weaponise, just take note and be smart.
– NZ Herald