Time’s up for cyber bullies

Here is the government’s press release on its proposed new cyber-bullying bill as discussed by me today (4 April 2013) on Radio New Zealand.

Time’s up for cyber bullies

Justice Minister Judith Collins has announced a raft of new proposals to hold cyber bullies to account for their bullying and harmful online behaviour.

“I am pleased to have developed a set of measures that aim to stop the growing incidence of cyber bullying and its devastating effects, particularly for young people.

“Many New Zealanders share my serious concerns about this problem as the reach and impact of bullying has increased considerably in the digital age.

“Tormenters are able to harass their targets 24 hours a day, seven days a week, wherever they go, and the trail of abuse lives on in cyberspace, following victims for years.

“These new measures send a clear message to cyber bullies: Time’s up. Your behaviour is not acceptable,” Ms Collins says.

New proposals to protect victims of cyber bullying and hold perpetrators to account include:

Creating a new civil enforcement regime that includes setting up or appointing an approved agency as the first port of call for complaints.
Allowing people to take serious complaints to the District Court, which will be able to issue sanctions such as take-down orders and cease-and-desist notices.
Making it an offence to send messages and post material online that is grossly offensive, indecent, obscene, menacing or knowingly false, punishable by up to 3 months imprisonment or a $2,000 fine.
Creating a new offence of incitement to commit suicide, even in situations when a person does not attempt to take their own life, punishable by up to 3 years imprisonment.
Amending the Harassment, Privacy and Human Rights Acts to ensure they are up-to-date for digital communications. In some cases, existing laws were written before cell phones, instant messaging devices and social networking websites became common communication channels.
Ms Collins says the proposed new approved agency will help people get the support they need to stop cyber bullying quickly.

“People needing help will get fast support including liaison with website hosts and ISPs to request takedown or moderation of clearly offensive posts.

“The agency will also be able to investigate and resolve complaints directly, with the most serious complaints being referred by the agency to the District Court which can issue take-down orders and cease-and-desist notices.

“Our new anti-cyber bullying proposals protect victims and hold perpetrators to account. No one should ever be subject to this kind of cowardly attack – now with the right support and modern laws in place, victims will no longer have to suffer,” Ms Collins says.

A bill giving effect to the changes will be introduced to Parliament to be passed later this year.

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