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And then John Key came for the Internet

By   /  June 29, 2015  /  28 Comments

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I think the reason why so many MPs are on board with this is because of the kind of interaction they get every day now through social media….

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You would think after lying about mass surveillance powers and then ramming them through Parliament under urgency, after running black op smears through the PMs Office, after killing off public broadcasting, after freezing RadioNZs budget, after gagging scientists, and after interfering politically with Campbell Live and Native Affairs – the National Government would admit that they’ve cracked down on all critical voices with a certain smug pride.

Apparently not.

The new Harmful Digital Communications Bill aims to make any online comment someone feels hurt by criminalised.

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.

This leaves an enormous amount of wriggle room on behalf of the ‘victim’. John Key could have argued that The Daily Blog’s exclusive on the way he abused a waitress was harmful to him and could have come after this blog.

I think the reason why so many MPs are on board with this is because of the kind of interaction they get every day now through social media….

…once upon a time MPs would have put up with crazy letters, or emails, but the social media world and especially twitter – allows for people with all sorts of chips on their shoulder to become unbalanced.

Christ, check out some of the bitter tripe that spews from some on Twitter – it’s an electronic world of the bullied finding voice to hit back from the safety of behind a screen. It’s going to be about as rational as cacophony from an asylum at times.

That’s what the block feature is for. If this Bill passes, half the Emerald Stormtrooper middle management of the Wellington Unions will all be fired and poor Giovanni Tiso won’t be able to get out of bed each morning for complaints.

While there certainly needs to be better customer service from social media providers to be able to easily block and stop trolls, making speech illegal is an open door for abuse. If someone defames you on social media, you have legal avenues, but to be able to criminalise speech based on as little a threshold as causing ‘harm’ to the ‘victim’ seems ripe for interpretation by those wanting critical voices silenced.

We live in dangerous times with a Government who have abused more political power than any other in modern NZ history, giving them the ability to censor the internet is terribly naive.

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  1. Pete says:

    We live in a society where bullying is often the flavour of the month through the media. Some school hits the headlines and angst, handwringing and calls for programmes in schools to do something about it tsunami along. The latest taste is about cyberbullying and the harm it causes.

    And all the while, bullying by politicians and the political system is de rigueur. David Carter stands in Parliament and utters the quaint prayer as a daily bullshit genuflection to that fact.

  2. elle says:

    Obama would shut anything down that didn’t appeal to him ,such as hes trying to shut down RTnews channel,the Russian channel gives their side of the Ukraine story,Obama wants people to think Russia and Putin to be the bad guys because Obama is terrified of the power of Russia and the new BRICS alliance. John Key learnt from Obama that the way to stop dissent is to blame Labour and to shut down the internet because the only news he wants people read is MSM.
    What is Key frightened of?

    • iain mclean says:

      He’s carrying out orders.


    • Daniel Venema says:

      You sound insane. Just saying. It’s a compartmentalized system.

      • richarquis says:

        If you’re going to denigrate someone like that, you’ve got to elaborate your thinking in order to justify the comment, or you just sound like you’re being a contrary ass.

        Just saying.

  3. Ontheup says:

    critiques can still be made, however. The fallacy of the neoliberal regime, or even the corporatist regime is easy to pick apart, by comparisons, differences and results. John Key makes the distinction between the role of the PM and himself – there picked apart already – then of course the criticism becomes valid as the role of PM is beyond just one weak cowardly person.

  4. Stuart Munro says:

    Legislating respect is the only way a non-performing government will get it.

  5. CLEANGREEN says:

    Key the dictator.

  6. Kim dandy says:

    I knew they would come for the net. They can’t handle the truth getting spread around – Good ole Mike said so himself on 7 s**t.
    ‘Stop with the conspiracy theories, and lets just get on with things’
    Yeah right Mike – get on with what? Destroying a perfectly good country?

  7. Save NZ says:

    Yep, Freedom of Speech a distant memory.

    Like democracy.

    Where any principal, councillor and public servant lives under threat of ‘government appointed commissioners’ booting them out.

  8. Kevin says:

    Let’s say for example you post on your blog that I rape kittens, and you include videos of me in the act. I would certainly be harmed. And let’s say I was running for prime minister and your actions meant I wasn’t elected, magnifying the harm even more. The bill would make it so that I could get you arrested and thrown in jail even though what you posted was true.

  9. Nitrium Nitrium says:

    Yes, the whole problem here is: define “harm”. If The John Key loses popularity due to a factual blog post, he has arguably been “harmed”, in that he is now provably not as popular as he was before said blog post (i.e. “his popularity has been harmed”, potentially an irrefutable fact). This sort of shit legislation clearly creates a lot more problems than it solves, in that it’s open to all manner of interpretation. It’s quite possibly a just a ploy to undermine free speech laws, with the usual “we’re doing it for the children” as an excuse.

  10. J S Bark J S Bark says:

    And so it continues.

    Stay asleep little hobbits, nothing to see here…

  11. Marcus says:

    If I understand this all correctly (and perhaps I don’t) this amounts almost to a reversal of traditional libel laws, doesn’t it? Libel laws used to protect those who spoke the truth, whilst punishing those who spread malicious lies and unsubstantiated rumour. It appears that this new law eliminates the distinction between the truth and lies. If you publish something about someone who doesn’t like what you said about them, you can be prosecuted even if it is the truth and you can prove it.
    What amazes me most is the lack of protest from the very people who you think would be most concerned – the journalists of this country. If the government had tried to put this sort of thing through parliament thirty years ago you would have had journalists scaling parliament and hanging banners, not Greenpeace people. There would have been one group of very irate press people in Wellington’s Press House ready to crucify this government. But now! silence! indifference!. It shows just how pathetic mainstream journalism has become in this country that they can scarcely be bothered even to investigate how this will interfere in their jobs. Or is it that because their National Party providers have reassured them that the law is not aimed at them, it is aimed at the subversive bloggers of the left, in particular TDB. Don’t worry boys! you can write what you like, as long as Uncle John approves.
    NZ MSM becomes more of a parody of itself every day.

    • richarquis says:

      Check out the system in South Korea, where I have lived for the last 6 years. You can be sued by someone who feels “harmed” by your comments, even if your comments are true. What’s more, police do not require a victim complaint to act if they wish to. Ergo, political persuasion is VERY possible. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyber_defamation_law

  12. Anon says:

    I agree that this bill could be abused. However, I think something like it is needed.

    It is worth having a look over defamation cases over the past five years or so.

    You will see that in respect of material on the internet, the courts are powerless to stop some people determined to make a misery of some people’s lives. Many of those people targeted are totally innocent but someone bears a grudge.

    Once-upon-a-time someone could defame you and then the newspaper was filed away only to be read again by the most determined researcher. Now anyone can publish anything, and to the world. And it lives forever. Even if it is taken down, such material can be accessed still, often.

    The MPs above will be well aware of some of the worst cases. I won’t list names or sites, because that might revictimize people or draw attention to defamatory content.

    Courts can impose penalties, but what if the defamer doesn’t care?

    A better solution might be criminal defamation. Still, that is not going to mean that the content will vanish, necessarily. It is not going to stop an employer or a business partner from being put off by material that may not be true or even it is may be exaggerated or particularly vicious.

    There are some serial defamers out there who probably need to have a jail sentence for what they have done to people and their families. The severe impact of defamatory content has increased with the internet, and so the punishment should with it.

    News blog sites like your own should be exempt, or the bar should be set much higher for them.

    I don’t know what to think about blogsites like Whale Oil. Obviously the racist material and the attacks on private individuals – the West Coast feral example is a case in point – need to be dealt with somehow. That individuals felt they had to deal with that case themselves goes to show that the legal avenues for addressing that sort of harm were not sufficient. I don’t understand why Cameron Slater feels it is OK to kick people while they are down like that. I don’t think there is any news value to it. I don’t know why he seems to get a kick out of it. I’d love to have a beer with the guy and nut it out with him. I believe that he must in his heart-of-hearts feel bad about it, but that he is a very proud man.

    People make a lot of accusations on Twitter against people all the time. It is really dismaying to see people, sometimes the best of people, brought into question or under personal attack because of rumour. People should think twice before they decide to do it, and seek to address any such issues or rumours in a more personal way. A court has to be very certain before it decides to charge someone. We should set a very high bar before we decide to encourage the public trial or shaming of others. Failing that, I’m afraid something like this bill is necessary. Really it is our fault.

    • The best way to understand what’s wrong with this bill is to imagine the government trying to introduce a Harmful Print Communications Bill, which criminalized anyone making any comment in print (eg anything from a newspaper or protest pamphlet) that an undefined “reasonable person” might consider to have caused them “harm”. Such a bill would be condemned as a government attack on freedom of the press, and freedom of speech, and so should this one.

      Civil liberties are not a luxury extra. They are fundamental protections which allow everyone to participate freely in democratic speech and deliberation, without fear of being persecuted for their opinions. The current trend across the English-speaking world of governments taking away our civil liberties “for our own protection” is a much greater threat to our lives, our freedom, even our belongings (think civil forfeiture) than any terrorist group could ever be. See the documentary ‘Taking Liberties’ for a more detailed picture of the rights our counterparts in Britain have already lost:

  13. Jenny says:

    Key is preparing the ground for the TPPA backlash. Cut them off before they understand the truth of it.

  14. hornet says:

    I posted on this some time ago, we were all set up to assist in this very bills passing…they always need an excuse……

    I have been monitoring several cases in the UK where Pedophile rings were exposed – people in high places involved – and the BLOG has just been shut down under terms similar to this bill – so in effect where corruption of power is in play – you will not be permitted to discuss it or expose it on line….thats what this bill is really about….

    Start joining the dots people …..you were all taken for a ride……


  15. And so it continues…any voice of dissent is harmful to a dictator….How long are good NZers going to tolerate this rapid descent into a fascist reality.

  16. sleepy says:

    Oh dear deleted again so much for free speech

  17. Freespeak says:

    Just before the entertainment show Campbell Live was reviewed John Key indicated the international focus on countering cyberwar. While he was speaking about the overhyped and much exaggerated “sophisticated” ISIS online campaign, was his comment letting slip an international strategy for manufacturing internet censorship of which the anti cyber bullying bill is part?

    This bill cuts down on freedom of speech in two ways: chill – make dissenters wary of speaking plainly, and entrapment – where politicians and narcissists will bait and provoke people to cross the line online and cause a legal stoush where a conviction would feed the ‘chill’ factor.

    Yes this has positive outcomes on trolls will have to think twice and reel it in, but the worst will find ways around it by using identity proxies and double meaning threats for personal attack.

    It will not affect the primary tools of dirty politics, which rely on half truth, innuendo, general shade, gullt by association etc. The act may clamp down on the messenger or online publisher who will have to weigh up whether they should report possibly offensive quotes, whether they have legal verifiable proof of them, and even if these conditions are met, can they foot a legal defence bill?

    The winners? Lawyers, indirect abusers, the surveillance state, and maybe the at-risk sensitive.

    • richarquis says:

      “Yes this has positive outcomes on trolls will have to think twice and reel it in, but the worst will find ways around it by using identity proxies and double meaning threats for personal attack.”

      Honestly, I find nothing wrong with assumed identities / nom de plumes on the internet. I NEVER use my real name on the internet with the exception of filling in legal forms. If your ideas are sound, then they will stand. If you are a troll, that is obvious regardless of your name. As someone who suffered a lot of bullying in school (to the point where a friend once commented they were amazed that I hadn’t committed suicide) there is no way I hand that info out to the public domain to idiots with no scruples. Protecting your sense of security is nothing to apologize for. Being an asshole? Well, those people are never gonna apologize for anything anyway, whether under their real name or a false one. Let’s not begrudge those who assume their title for genuine reasons.

  18. Jim says:

    …or perhaps because so many of them have name suppression – and something to hide.

  19. Grant of Wellington says:

    Thanks for your display of democracy the other day by removing my post. What you did was essentially no different than the legislation you were commenting on.

    I support the bill (as I suspect you do) by virtue of the fact that you removed a post that did not agree with your viewpoint.

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