Netsafe – Cyberbullying: Estimating Societal Costs

Netsafe has releases a report the commissioned on cyberbullying. Curiously the report was done by an economist, Shamubeel Eaqub, I presume to focus on trying to establishing the costs.


New Zealand’s first-ever report into the economic effect of online harm estimates the cost to individuals, communities and interventions to be $444m every year.

The new report commissioned by Netsafe and undertaken by leading economist Shamubeel Eaqub provides an important new assessment of the damage from online bullying and harassment. To date, cyberbullying has been primarily understood in terms of social cost and personal harm.

The report gives NZ a starting point to begin to understand the full impact of this behaviour here in New Zealand, and where to best focus interventions and responses. The survey commissioned for the report reveals that 1 in 10 NZ adults have personally experienced online harm, and that 64% of people are worried about the impact of cyberbullying and its effects on society at large. It highlights that cyberbullying has a much wider affect than the individual person being targeted and that more could be done to address the risks.

Key points from the report:

The online world exposes some people to harm from cyberbullying. The cost to individuals, communities
and interventions are substantial. We estimate the societal cost of cyberbullying is $444m a year.

We used local surveys, international studies, and approaches from other fields to develop a framework and
identify the costs. We have not counted the potential long-term costs from health or productivity effects,
which we hope to pick up in a future iteration of this work.

Additional interventions against cyberbullying could focus on:

  • Destigmatising seeking help. 31% of those experiencing or witnessing cyberbullying did not seek
  • Investing in curriculum for schools. Young people are disproportionately affected by cyberbullying.
  • Raising awareness of cyberbullying and where to seek help. Victims of cyberbullying are most
    likely to turn to their family and friends for help. Awareness of where to go for help would be
  • International coordination of legislation and enforcement of cyberbullying. Currently these are

It seems odd trying to equate the effects of cyber bullying in dollar terms.


Successive new technologies have allowed communication to happen faster and they have become
widespread more quickly. For example, the telephone took nearly 50 years to become mainstream in the US
(over half of households). The home computer took nearly 20 years, the internet 13 years and smartphone 7
years. In New Zealand, nearly 90% of the population have access to the internet.

The widespread adoption of the internet and its applications allow much wider reach and greater intensity
of interactions, both positive and negative.

Like the real world, the online world also has a small population of bullies. The anonymity available online
can mean cyberbullying is more intense than in person. Some surveys show greater negative impact on
happiness and wellbeing from cyberbullying than social bullying.

In a survey we commissioned, conducted by UMR, only 10% of respondents had personally experienced
online harm, although the impact was higher among women, young people and ethnic minorities (we did
not collect more detailed information on disability, gender, etc.).

While most of the population appear unaffected by cyberbullying, some have intensely negative

On victim demographics:

To get a better understanding New Zealander’s experiences and attitudes, we asked UMR to survey New
Zealanders on cyber-bullying using a representative panel of 1,000 respondents. They survey found that
New Zealanders are worried about the impact of cyberbullying and its effects on society at large (64%), and
in diminishing order on a family member, a friend, and the respondent her- or him-self (see Figure 3).

Within this, we saw much higher levels of concern among women, younger people, people with children
and people from minority ethnic groups. Our survey was not large enough to collect information on
disability, LGBTI and other related variables.

Figure 4 shows that within the last year, more people report knowing a friend that experienced some online harm than report experiencing online harm themselves.

Unsurprisingly, women, younger people and people from ethnic minorities reported higher levels of harm

Surprisingly the report gives no details from the survey on “women, younger people and people from ethnic minorities”.

I’ve been cyber bullied quite severely, or at least some numpties tried to bully me (bullies need victims and I fought back rather than be victimised), and they tried seriously to bull this blog to to the extent of abusing court processes to try and shut this site down.

Ironically one of their tools of bullying, Lauda Finem, was shut down by a court order. That gang of numpties attacked, abused, defamed and bullied hundreds of people – and I suspect the demographics of that group would surprise the writer of the above report as I doubt it fits into his assumptions.

The LF bullying was serious enough to end up in a conviction for one of the primary bullies – see “Either Dermot Nottingham is Lauda Finem…or he is so intimately related to it…” and Nottingham has not been acting alone.

As part of his home detention sentence Nottingham is forbidden to access the internet – something he unsuccessfully tried to impose on me. However he continues to abuse court processes – I was in the Court of Appeal yesterday with him still trying to re-litigate a prosecution he withdrew over two years ago.

There are others still being dragged through courts by Nottingham – and they don’t fit the survey claims about demographics.

It would be very difficult to comprehensively survey the extent and impact and demographics of cyberbullying, and I wonder how successful the Netsafe survey has been. The report has a focus on victim demographics that they don’t support with any data.

Did they try to quantify the costs of cyber bullying on the court system? There is no indication that they did – ‘court’ is not mentioned in their estimated cost nor the report at all.

There is a claim of a form of alleged cyber bullying before the court right now – see No news on Blomfield v Slater.

I know of people dragged through court after court that have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars defending themselves from legal associated with online attacks.

And the cost to the judicial system must be substantial – I had my 14th hearing yesterday in a vexatious series of actions that can now have no substantial outcome – I and another party are legally not guilty and that can’t be changed, we have been awarded costs that are being appealed but as Nottingham is bankrupt he is unlikely to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars of costs owed to me and others.

Did Netsafe consider any of this in their survey?

A lot of people are bullied online, I’m not trying to diminish the size of the problem, but I don’t know how well the survey gets a true picture of the problem.

A possible problem with getting an economist to survey online bullying is they may not have a full understanding of the scope and variety of bullying out there, nor the full costs.

Leave a comment


  1. Blazer

     /  10th October 2018

    poor old Sir Raymond Avery complained to Netsafe about online commentary that was very critical of him regarding financing his business selling pods to save a million babies.
    Roll on February 2019 Ray…lets see what you come up with…this time.

  2. Kitty Catkin

     /  10th October 2018

    1000 is a small sample for a survey.

    What is ‘harm’ ? We need to have more detail. It’s one of those questions that is hard to give a yes/no answer to. Is it just someone being vile on a blog or Twitter or threats or what ?

    I have been trolled, so would have to answer yes, I suppose. I do dislike questions that mean that the answer is misleading whichever it its/

  3. Tipene

     /  10th October 2018

    I see Lizzie Marvelly is having a bitch and a moan about being “cyber-bullied” today in the NZ Herald.

    It’s called alternative opinion, ya ditz!

    • Pink David

       /  10th October 2018

      Strange, it was only a couple of weeks ago when she was ‘bravely’ fighting back after ‘years of abuse’

    • Gezza

       /  10th October 2018

      Nah it’d be more than just alternative opinion. There’d be plenty of just plain ordinary really nasty personal abuse because some people are just like that.


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