I’ve written a short piece for The Conversation on the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015, legislation recently adopted in New Zealand.
I’ve had half an eye on this proposal for a while. I originally came across it through following the progress of the New Zealand Law Commission’s project on new media regulation (of which this was an offshoot), and before that its huge privacy project, which also affected the new law and the NZLC’s draft Bill.
My goal in the piece isn’t to justify or criticise the HDCA (there’s more than enough out there on the latter in particular, e.g. on sites like BoingBoing). Instead, I’m particularly interested in the tools that NZ chose – and how they are trying to tackle the issues through a number of different remedies (and indeed doctrines). The NZLC’s original idea for a specialist Tribunal didn’t survive, but that of an agency to do mediation etc, along with the potential for court orders, did. Also notable is the setting out of principles for digital communication. Not saying that I’d endorse them as a comprehensive statement, but they are intriguing. Above all, the presentation of a package gives a great opportunity to look at how it all works out in practice – and, as I say late in the piece, something other places might think about (e.g. the initial moves in the Seanad in Ireland, and what will come from the Law Reform Commission in due course).
I also enjoyed reading through the legislative debates on the HDCA (even the one that took place . Obviously, I didn’t get to put much of that in the final short article, but even the split within the Green Party (the third party in the Parliament), and the way in which legislators of all parties referred to particular problems and scandals, was worthwhile reading. Also interesting, if not entirely novel, was the set of submissions from various parts of the tech industry. On that score, the intermediary provisions are also worth watching. The result is something not a million miles from the Defamation Act 2013 provisions for England and Wales – a bespoke notice and takedown regime with an emphasis on passing on complaints to authors (and, consequentially, favouring non-anonymous postings). In contrast with the DA, though, much of the detail is in the legislation rather than the statutory instruments!