Cyberbullying Now A Crime In New Zealand
Alas, a favourite pastime of many a disgruntled individual is going away for good – or, at least, will now be associated with grave consequences.
The Harmful Digital Communications Bill has passed in third reading in New Zealand and will now be active nationwide
What does this mean?
Cyberbullying is defined as “the use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature”, and this is what the bill is intended to fight.
The new law prohibits sending messages that are discriminative in their nature and can be described as sexist, disrespectful towards people’s religion, sexual orientation or physical ability.
Posting a message of the kind – with the purpose of causing harm to another person – could now result in up to two years’ imprisonment or a maximum fine of $50, 000.
A special agency will be established where you could file a complaint, should you come across such a message, and the agency will them investigate the issue further.
The Bill has received strong support from human rights activists, while causing a bit of a controversy with others.
Some are worried if the new law could be misused against the freedom of speech. Others have voiced concerns that the principle targets of cyberbullying offences will be children. Proponents of the law have been fast to ensure that “the criminal provisions of the law are there for only the most serious cases, with the threshold for prosecution being very high”. It has also been established that children under the age of 14 can not be charged with cyberbullying, while the offences committed by those aged between 14 and 16 will be processed by the your justice system.
Whichever the long-term consequences of the new legislation are, one thing is clear: no matter how you feel about Justin Bieber’s latest music video, it’s probably best you keep some of the risqué comments to yourself. That is, if you are in new Zealand, of course.