New Zealand trying to lead crackdown on social media

Without knowing any details I don’t know whether the be pleased or concerned about attempts by the New Zealand Government to lead a crackdown on social media.

It is too easy for people and organisations to spread false and damaging information via social media, but attempts to deal with this could easily lurch too far in limiting freedom of expression.

NZ Herald – Social media crackdown: How New Zealand is leading the global charge

Steps towards global regulation of social media companies to rein in harmful content looks likely, with the Government set to take a lead role in a global initiative, the Herald has learned.

The will of governments to work together to tackle the potentially harmful impacts of social media would have only grown stronger in the wake of the terror attacks in Sri Lanka, where Facebook and Instagram were temporarily shut down in that country to stop the spread of false news reports.

Following the Christchurch terror attack, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been working towards a global co-ordinated response that would make the likes of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter more responsible for the content they host.

The social media companies should be held to account for what they enable, but it’s a very tricky thing to address without squashing rights and freedoms.

Currently multinational social media companies have to comply with New Zealand law, but they also have an out-clause – called the safe harbour provisions – that means they may not be legally liable for what users publish on their sites, though these were not used in relation to the livestream video of the massacre in Christchurch.

Other countries, including Australia, are taking a more hardline approach that puts more onus on these companies to block harmful content, but the Government has decided a global response would be more effective, given the companies’ global reach.

Facebook has faced a barrage of criticism for what many see as its failure to immediately take down the livestream and minimise its spread; Facebook removed 1.5 million videos of the attack within 24 hours.

They were too ineffective and too slow – that they took down one and a half million copies shows how quickly the video spread before action was taken.

Ardern has said this wasn’t good enough, saying shortly after the Christchurch terror attack: “We cannot simply sit back and accept that these platforms just exist and that what is said on them is not the responsibility of the place where they are published.”

Among those adding their voices to this sentiment were the bosses of Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees and the managers of five government-related funds, who all called on social media companies to do more to combat harmful content.

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards has also been scathing, calling Facebook “morally bankrupt” and saying it should take immediate action to make its services safe.

Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker said that existing laws and protections were not enough to stop the online proliferation of the gunman’s video.

He doubted that changing any New Zealand laws would be effective, and echoed Ardern in saying that a global solution was ideal.

But it is generally much harder to get international agreement on restrictive laws, so a global solution may be very difficult to achieve. Actually there is never likely to be ‘a solution’, all they can do is make it harder for bad stuff to proliferate.

The UK is currently considering a white paper on online harms that proposes a “statutory duty of care” for online content hosts.

Rules would be set up and enforced by an independent regulator, which would demand illegal content to be blocked within “an expedient timeframe”. Failure to comply could lead to substantial fines or even shutting down the service.

The problem is an effective timeframe has to be just about instant.

In Australia a law was recently passed that requires hosting services to “remove abhorrent violent material expeditiously” or face up to three years’ jail or fines in the millions of dollars.

Germany also has a law that gives social media companies an hour to remove “manifestly unlawful” posts such as hate speech, or face a fine up to 50 million Euros.

And the European Union is considering regulations that would give social media platforms an hour to remove or disable online terrorist content.

In New Zealand multiple laws – including the Harmful Digital Communications Act, the Human Rights Act, and the Crimes Act – dictate what can and cannot be published on social media platforms.

While Ardern has ruled out a model such as Australia’s, changes to New Zealand law could still happen following the current review of hate speech.

Legally defining ‘hate speech’ wil be difficult enough, and applying laws governing speech will require decisions and judgements to be made by people. That could be very difficult to do effectively.

 

 

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15 Comments

  1. Corky

     /  23rd April 2019

    In other words, the first attempt at a one world policy, leading to a one world government. Of course all governments would want this regulation in some form. The internet is the bane of all governments because it curtails their ability to lie, spin and manipulate.

    National at one stage was looking into the control of the internet.

    It’s getting to the stage where people will have to chose what they stand for, or against. Fence sitting is fast becoming a luxury few will soon be able to afford, especially if they want the freedoms they currently enjoy.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  23rd April 2019

      Might be time for another Cosmic catastrophe? Let the planet clear out its biggest problem & try again for something better?

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  23rd April 2019

        I think that the One World Government will be a long time coming, except in the perfervid imaginations of conspiracy theorists. Imagine trying to run it from a central point !!!

        Reply
      • Corky

         /  23rd April 2019

        ”Might be time for another Cosmic catastrophe? ”

        Our present existence. Our way of life, is predicated on the status quo remaining the same.

        I think people fail to realise things can change in an instant, leaving the world open to new power structures. So, yeah, either a cosmic or man made catastrophe, and you may be staring at a one world government or some new world order.

        Reply
  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  23rd April 2019

    Is there any evidence that social media has any connection with the recent terrorist atrocities other than attempts to use it as publicity after the event?

    Do you need a problem before you propose a solution or not?

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  23rd April 2019

      What about ordinary old death threats and libel ? Should there be open season on those ?

      Reply
  3. Pink David

     /  23rd April 2019

    ‘The social media companies should be held to account for what they enable, but it’s a very tricky thing to address without squashing rights and freedoms.”

    You are right, it’s a very tricky thing to do without squashing rights and freedoms. So, it is much simpler just to squash rights and freedoms. Which is most likely what they will do.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  23rd April 2019

      We don’t have the right to walk around the streets naked. We don’t have the right to set our own speed limits or sell alcohol to children or buy poisons like arsenic and cyanide. We can’t drive unregistered cars or cars without WOFs. We can’t shoot endangered birds or walk through other people’s property. We can’t use obscene language anywhere we happen to feel like it. We can’t buy restricted medicines or ivory or have exotic animals as pets. We can’t travel without passports or drive without a license.

      All of these were legal at some time.

      Reply
      • Pink David

         /  23rd April 2019

        You remind me of Gillian Triggs, who, infamously, lamented that Australia’s Section 18C could only be used to police what people say in public, and not at their private dinner tables.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  23rd April 2019

          She may well have been speaking satirically.

          It was, I hope, obvious that I was giving examples of things that were once not against the law but are now and are accepted as such. No doubt people made a fuss about needing a license to drive and not being able to buy morphine, heroin, arsenic and cyanide over the counter, but we now see that as no hardship.

          Reply
          • Pink David

             /  23rd April 2019

            “She may well have been speaking satirically.”

            She had the power to send people to jail for speaking in a way she does not approve of. Please explain how she can use ‘satirical’ speech, when she will happily go after comedians for the same act?

            “It was, I hope, obvious that I was giving examples of things that were once not against the law but are now and are accepted as such. ”

            Your point is what? More laws are better?

            In the laws you list, all of them have a similar component, they are all easily measurable. You either do, or do not have a drivers licence.

            When you decide to police people’s speech, you have then appointed people like Gillian Triggs to rule on what is, what is not acceptable. The pattern has been repeated in the UK, Canada and Australia.

            Reply
            • Kitty Catkin

               /  23rd April 2019

              I have no idea of what prompted this pointless attack or why you consider that I am deciding to police people’s speech. I had never heard of Gillian Triggs before this and the quote could have been taken as satirical..

              Don’t put words in my mouth; it’s very rude indeed.

              If you can’t understand plain English, that’s not my fault.

              Do you think that we should not have legislation about cars being safe and driven safely by people who know what they’re doing ?

              Or be able to buy things like cyanide and arsenic over the counter, no questions asked ?

              Social media is not private speech, it’s public. In an ideal world, people could be trusted not to make death threats, make public videos of themselves committing massacres and making libellous statements. We don’t live in an ideal world.

            • Pink David

               /  23rd April 2019

              “I have no idea of what prompted this pointless attack”

              Where have I attack you?

              ” I had never heard of Gillian Triggs before this and the quote could have been taken as satirical..”

              Learn. Because when people start deciding to police speech it’s people like Triggs who desire to be in the positions to enforce it. She was absolutely serious btw.

              “Don’t put words in my mouth; it’s very rude indeed.:

              I have not put words in your mouth.

              “Do you think that we should not have legislation about cars being safe and driven safely by people who know what they’re doing ?”

              I have explained the difference between this, and how it differs to policing ‘acceptable’ speech. You have clearly missed that.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  23rd April 2019

          I can’t help what you imagine.

          Reply
  1. New Zealand trying to lead crackdown on social media — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

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