New Zealand mulls new cyber-bullying law

August 15, 2012
This file illustration photo shows a man using a laptop at an Internet cafe. New Zealand said it was considering making cyber-bullying a criminal offence, amid concerns that existing laws offer inadequate protection from online harassment.

New Zealand said it was considering making cyber-bullying a criminal offence, amid concerns that existing laws offer inadequate protection from online harassment.

A Law Commission report on Wednesday said were particularly vulnerable to cyber-bullying, which could lead to depression, self-harm and suicide among victims.

The report's author, legal academic John Burrows, said existing laws had failed to keep pace with developments in social media and police were dealing with increasing numbers of complaints about online threats and harassment.

"Communication is different now because it can go viral very quickly and spread to a very wide audience and other people can join in," he told Radio New Zealand.

"In the school playground it's much less likely to spread widely."

Research commissioned for the report found 10 percent of New Zealanders had experienced issues such as cyber-bullying and online, rising to 22 percent among 18-29 year olds.

Burrows recommended the creation of a new crime specifically aimed at cyber-bullying, making it illegal to post grossly offensive, obscene or threatening content that was aimed at causing .

The proposed offence would carry a maximum penalty of three months in prison.

He said Britain had introduced a similar offence, which resulted in a four month jail term last year for a man who posted abusive content on a memorial page for a who committed suicide.

"The mere fact that it's an offence enables the police to have a bit of teeth when they say: 'Look, if that happens again we will take you to court and prosecute you'," Burrows said.

He also called for establishment of a specialised online communications tribunal, with the power to issue "takedown notices" ordering the immediate removal of offensive content.

Justice Minister Judith Collins welcomed the 160-page report and said the government would consider its recommendations as a priority.

"It's time to send a clear message to cyber-bullies, your behaviour is not acceptable," she said in a statement.

Explore further: Depression hits victims hardest in cyber bullying

Related Stories

Depression hits victims hardest in cyber bullying

September 21, 2010

Young victims of electronic or cyber bullying — which occurs online or by cell phone — are more likely to suffer from depression than their tormentors are, a new study finds.

New study suggests gender gap around homophobic bullying

April 26, 2012

A new study from Educational and Psychological Measurement (published by SAGE) found that when it comes to homophobic bullying, there could be a gender gap. While male victims are more likely to be bullied by male homophobic ...

Recommended for you

Smart home heating and cooling

August 28, 2015

Smart temperature-control devices—such as thermostats that learn and adjust to pre-programmed temperatures—are poised to increase comfort and save energy in homes.

Smallest 3-D camera offers brain surgery innovation

August 28, 2015

To operate on the brain, doctors need to see fine details on a small scale. A tiny camera that could produce 3-D images from inside the brain would help surgeons see more intricacies of the tissue they are handling and lead ...

Team creates functional ultrathin solar cells

August 27, 2015

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers with Johannes Kepler University Linz in Austria has developed an ultrathin solar cell for use in lightweight and flexible applications. In their paper published in the journal Nature Materials, ...

Interactive tool lifts veil on the cost of nuclear energy

August 24, 2015

Despite the ever-changing landscape of energy economics, subject to the influence of new technologies and geopolitics, a new tool promises to root discussions about the cost of nuclear energy in hard evidence rather than ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Angela_Smith
not rated yet Sep 09, 2012
As a parent I try to protect my kid from this type of bullying by using a monitoring tool, Qustodio.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.