HDCA: cot case bar set for ‘harm’

A judgment was been given on an application to dismiss a prosecution under the Harmful Digital  Communications Act that suggests that to succeed with a prosecution the victim would virtually have to become a cot case.

Judge C J Doherty ruled that the posting of semi-nude photos on Facebook had taken place with the intention of causing harm to the victim, but that there was insufficient evidence that “serious emotional distress” had occurred (as defined in s 4 of the HDCA).

It appears from this that the legislation, backed by this judgment, has set a very high bar for a prosecution under the HDCA.

This rules out a conviction under the act for malicious digital communications that may seriously harm someone’s reputation but that they don’t get ‘seriously distressed’ about. Getting very pissed off or angry or upset with a harmful attack would seem to be insufficient.

In this case an estranged husband still has to face a charge of breaching a protection order, but the judge ruled on a breach of s 22 of the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015 (HDCA) “that the prosecution has not established a prima facie case that the complainant in fact suffered harm as defined in s 4”.

[3] The second charge alleges a breach of s 22 of the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015 (HDCA) (“the second charge”). It is alleged that the defendant posted a digital communication, being semi-nude images of Mrs Iyer, from whom he is separated. The prosecution alleges that: in posting the communication, the defendant intended to cause Mrs Iyer harm; that posting the communication would cause harm to an ordinary reasonable person in Mrs Iyer’s position; and that posting the communication caused serious emotional distress to Mrs Iyer.

From the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015:

22 Causing harm by posting digital communication:

(1) A person commits an offence if—

(a) the person posts a digital communication with the intention that it cause harm to a victim; and
(b) posting the communication would cause harm to an ordinary reasonable person in the position of the victim; and
(c) posting the communication causes harm to the victim.

4 Interpretation: ‘harm means serious emotional distress’.

Posting a digital communication

First the judge considered in detail whether posting to Facebook constituted a digital communication:

“the defendant claims the prosecution has not proved that a Facebook post qualifies as a digital communication, as defined by s 4 of the HDCA”

The HDCA definition:

digital communication-
(a) means any form of electronic communication; and
(b) includes any text message, writing, photograph, picture, recording, or other matter that is communicated electronically

The judge ruled against the defendant on that:

I am satisfied, without evidence of the precise protocol and technological basis of Facebook, that the photographs included on the [name of account deleted] account constituted digital communications.

It would have been absurd if posting to Facebook was not a digital communication.

The judge next found that the timing of the posting of the photograph had happened after the HDCA came into force on 1 July 2015.

The judge then considered intention  to cause harm.

[51] The evidence must tend to prove that the defendant posted the “digital communication with the intention that it cause harm to a victim” (in this case Mrs Iyer). Harm is further defined in s 4 of the HDCA as “serious emotional distress”.

[52] I have been unable to find the phrase “serious emotional distress” in any other piece of legislation. Accordingly, it does not appear to have been judicially defined, thus I must consider the definition in terms of the plain meaning of the words, and the wider purpose of the HDCA.

[54] It is clear from the inclusion of the word “serious” that the intended harm must be more than trivial. Being merely upset or annoyed as a consequence of a digital communication would not be sufficient to invoke the sanction of criminal law.

Also, I emphasise that the conduct criminalised by the HDCA is harmful conduct. Offensive, morally repugnant or merely upsetting conduct will not suffice. In order to attract criminal sanction, the conduct must go further.

[56] Turning to the purposive approach, in my view it is clear that the definition of serious emotional distress is designed to balance two competing concerns: the serious effects of calculated emotional harm, and the importance of maintaining free speech.

[58] This Parliamentary discussion reveals that any harm associated with digital communication must be taken seriously. It is important that the court does not assume that emotional distress caused by digital communications is inherently any less harmful than other forms of harm. From this, I interpret that the bar to a successful criminal prosecution must not be set too high.

But:

[59] However, it is also clear that the need to deter harmful online conduct must be weighed against the value of freedom of expression. Freedom of expression is a right protected by s 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (NZBORA). It includes the right to “impart information and opinions of any kind in any form”.

Although NZBORA rights are not absolute, s 6 of NZBORA requires that I consider s 14 when interpreting other statutes, a requirement that is reinforced by s 6(2)(b) of the HDCA.

This demands that the courts do not give an interpretation that would have an unduly restrictive effect on free speech. Indeed, this risk is heightened in the HDCA context, which criminalises expression that would not attract liability if it were communicated through a different medium.

Accordingly, I consider I must not reach an interpretation of “serious emotional distress” that is set too low. Taking a purposive approach requires that I balance the deterrence of online harm with the preservation of freedom of speech.

[60] The text of the statute and the wider purposive context both bring me to the same conclusion. In order to attract liability under s 22 of HDCA, conduct must be harmful to an identifiable victim. I conclude that the definition of “harm”, being “serious emotional distress”, may include a condition short of a psychiatric illness or disorder, or distress that requires medical or other treatment or counselling.

[61] The nub of this element is the intention of the defendant. An intention to elicit a serious response of grief, anguish, anxiety or feelings of insecurity would, in my view, qualify as intention to cause harm for the purposes of HDCA s 22(1).

[63] I stress that at this stage I need only find that the prosecution has made out a prima facie case. It is open to the defence to prove that the defendant was not motivated to control the complainant’s life, or that he could have achieved his motive without inflicting serious emotional distress. However, at this stage of proceedings I find that the prosecution has established a case to answer for this element.

Next the judge considered “where posting the digital communication would cause harm to a reasonable person in the position of the victim”

[64] The prosecution must prove that the communication would cause harm to an ordinary reasonable person in the position of Mrs Iyer (HDCA s 22(1)(b)). Section 22(2) sets out a non-exhaustive list of factors which the court may consider, including:

(a) the extremity of the language used:
(b) the age and characteristics of the victim:
(c) whether the digital communication was anonymous:
(d) whether the digital communication was repeated:
(e) the extent of circulation of the digital communication:
(f) whether the digital communication is true or false:
(g) the context in which the digital communication appeared.

[65] I consider that factors (b); (c); (d); (e); and (g) are relevant to the present
case.

[71] I find that the prosecution has established a prima facie case that the posting would cause serious emotional distress to an objective person in the position of Mrs Iyer.

Finally “whether posting the communication causes harm to the victim”:

[72] It is not enough to prove that the digital communication would cause harm to an objective person. The prosecution must establish that the communication did, in fact, cause harm to the victim.

[73] I have found that discovering the post of the photographs resulted in Mrs Iyer being frustrated, angry, anxious and very upset and that she considered taking time off work. (although she did not recall that she did so).

The only other evidence was from Ms Shroad who reported that at the time she viewed the post, Mrs Iyer almost cried and appeared “very depressed” and required someone to be with her for support. I hasten to add this was not a clinical diagnosis but a lay person’s description of what she observed.

Mrs Iyer did not elaborate on her frustration, anger, anxiety or upset. Ms Shroad did not elaborate on what she meant by “depressed” nor describe Mrs Iyer as exhibiting feelings of serious anxiety or insecurity. What Ms Shroad meant by Mrs Iyer needing “someone to be with her for support” was not elaborated upon.

While the evidence clearly points to some degree of emotional distress, it is not sufficient to satisfy me it has reached the threshold of serious emotional distress (as explored above at paragraphs [52]–-[60]).

I do not overlook the fact that Ms Shroad’s observation, while proximate to the time of discovery of the post, is not necessary determinative of the distress of Mrs Iyer; the distress may have manifest itself later. Nor have I ignored the notion that an inference might be drawn that the needing of support itself meant Mrs Iyer was suffering serious emotional distress.

But the absence of specific evidence as to the root cause of her need is a telling factor against the drawing of such an inference.

[74] The prosecution need only prove that the electronic communication caused harm; not that it caused harm immediately. Whether harm in the form of serious emotional distress was caused is a matter of fact. The prosecution has not led cogent evidence to this effect. Such evidence could have been provided by more detailed and specific evidence from Mrs Iyer as to her reactions, feelings or physical symptoms and their duration or by expert evidence, such as the evidence of a psychologist or counsellor. However, none has been led.

[75] On this basis, I consider that the prosecution has not established a prima facie case that the complainant in fact suffered harm as defined in s 4.

So in summary the judge ruled that:

  • Posting photos to Facebook constitutes a digital communication
  • The defendant intended to cause harm
  • The posting would cause serious emotional distress to an objective person in the position of the defendant

But

  • There was insufficient evidence of harm defined as “serious emotional distress”.

Based on this it seems that prosecutions for ‘harm’ under the HDCA will only succeed in fairly extreme cases proving “serious emotional distress”.

I don’t think this is the judge’s fault, he went to some length to understand and comply with the Act.

Those who deliberately set out to cause harm online shouldn’t have much difficulty keeping degree of the damage below this threshold, unless they misjudge someone’s emotional state and tip them over the edge.

The judgment is here: RESERVED DECISION OF JUDGE C J DOHERTY ON APPLICATION FOR DISMISSAL PURSUANT TO S 147(4)(B) CRIMINAL PROCEDURE ACT 2011

Fake news, elections, Facebook

Attention continues on how fake news is being used in political campaigns, how fake news helped win the US presidential election for Donald Trump, and how Facebook is a significant  part of spreading false news.

Gizmodo: Facebook’s Fight Against Fake News Was Undercut by Fear of Conservative Backlash

It’s no secret that Facebook has a fake news problem. Critics have accused the social network of allowing false and hoax news stories to run rampant, with some suggesting that Facebook contributed to Donald Trump’s election by letting hyper-partisan websites spread false and misleading information.

Mark Zuckerberg has addressed the issue twice since Election Day, most notably in a carefully worded statement that reads: “Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99 percent of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes. The hoaxes that do exist are not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics.”

Still, it’s hard to visit Facebook without seeing phony headlines like “FBI Agent Suspected in Hillary Email Leaks Found Dead in Apparent Murder-Suicide” or “Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President, Releases Statement” promoted by no-name news sites like the Denver Guardian and Ending The Fed.

Gizmodo has learned that the company is, in fact, concerned about the issue, and has been having a high-level internal debate since May about how the network approaches its role as the largest news distributor in the US.

According to two sources with direct knowledge of the company’s decision-making, Facebook executives conducted a wide-ranging review of products and policies earlier this year, with the goal of eliminating any appearance of political bias.

One source said high-ranking officials were briefed on a planned News Feed update that would have identified fake or hoax news stories, but disproportionately impacted right-wing news sites by downgrading or removing that content from people’s feeds. According to the source, the update was shelved and never released to the public. It’s unclear if the update had other deficiencies that caused it to be scrubbed.

“They absolutely have the tools to shut down fake news,” said the source, who asked to remain anonymous citing fear of retribution from the company. The source added, “there was a lot of fear about upsetting conservatives after Trending Topics,” and that “a lot of product decisions got caught up in that.”

on Facebook:

1. Facebook is a perfect example for why government regulation is important.

2. The incentives are all wrong here:
  a) Users are happy with fake news
  b) FB is happy making billions
  c) Advertisers are happy with clicks

3. The fake news literally makes everyone involved happy–from producers and distributors to advertisers and users.

4. In this way, it’s not unlike, say, heroin, which also makes everyone in the chain happy–until someone dies. And that’s why it’s illegal.

I don’t know how government regulation will help prevent fake news being fed via other countries.

Guardian: Click and elect: how fake news helped Donald Trump win a real election

We are fully ensconced in the post-truth world. The greatest editor this paper ever had, CP Scott, had it that “facts are sacred”. CP Scott, by the way, apparently used to have this thing where he brushed his teeth a certain way so the flecks of toothpaste would make a rude shape as they hit the bathroom mirror.

Zuckerberg has said: “Personally, I think the idea that fake news – of which it’s a small amount of content – influenced the election is a pretty crazy idea.”

The influence of verifiably false content on Facebook cannot be regarded as “small” when it garners millions of shares. And yes, it runs deep. The less truthful a piece is, the more it is shared.

In Zuckerberg’s follow-up statement, he seems to have shot himself in the foot, by saying it was “extremely unlikely” fake news on Facebook had an impact on the election, but also boasting that Facebook was responsible for 2 million people registering to vote. So which is it, Zuck? Does Facebook have influence or not?

Where do these stories originate? Well, some are created by teenagers in Macedonia. Wait, that one isn’t a joke – non-partisan kids looking for cash just catering to demand. Many more come from people we now term the “alt-right”, who cook up stories on boards such as 8chan, 4chan and social media, and are then co-opted either by genuine right-leaning sites or shill sites, and are then shared again on social media by accounts with Pepe the Frog or eggs as their avatars. It’s a bit like the water cycle, but if the water cycle were diarrhoea.

‘Alt-right’ is a sanitising term. Perhaps Alt[-wrong or Alt-deliberately-wrong would be more appropriate.

Some of these stories are frankly ridiculous (myth busted: Hillary Clinton is not the leader of an underground paedophile ring), and cater to an increasing number of conspiracy theorists. But others are relatively benign if wildly inaccurate. They have still begun on message boards created by the same people who – and I will not sugarcoat this – refer to people who are not white as “shit-skins”.

A better term for many of the alt-right, therefore, might be “far-right”. For “alt-right” is an ambiguous term and encompasses many forms. Sure, they are internet-savvy millennials who reject mainstream conservatives and despise Paul Ryan. But they’re also far-right lurkers who probably bid on Nazi memorabilia and have moved from white supremacist sites such as Stormfront. Then there’s the Russian faction; online commenters bought in bulk. And on social media, there are the bots and sockpuppet accounts to inflict automated insult to injury.

But let’s be clear: the internet alt-right is more successful as an In Real Life political force than the online left.

And that success is why it will be hard to combat.

Just like old media seem to put clickbait ahead of accuracy, and Facebook is driven by revenue, political activists are driven by a desire to win, and if they win with fake news they will keep peddling fake news.

And they will get better at disguising it as legitimate news, and they will get better at spreading it before it can get busted as fake.

The Internet was a great new hope for spreading information and communication to the masses, but it is becoming a means of duping the masses on an unprecedented scale.

This will evolve and change – for better and for worse.

Facebook and fake news

Fake news on the Internet is a growing problem, and Facebook has been under fire for it and how it may have affected the US election.

In response to the Mark Zuckerberg has posted:


I want to share some thoughts on Facebook and the election.

Our goal is to give every person a voice. We believe deeply in people. Assuming that people understand what is important in their lives and that they can express those views has driven not only our community, but democracy overall. Sometimes when people use their voice though, they say things that seem wrong and they support people you disagree with.

After the election, many people are asking whether fake news contributed to the result, and what our responsibility is to prevent fake news from spreading. These are very important questions and I care deeply about getting them right. I want to do my best to explain what we know here.

Of all the content on Facebook, more than 99% of what people see is authentic. Only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes. The hoaxes that do exist are not limited to one partisan view, or even to politics. Overall, this makes it extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other.

That said, we don’t want any hoaxes on Facebook. Our goal is to show people the content they will find most meaningful, and people want accurate news. We have already launched work enabling our community to flag hoaxes and fake news, and there is more we can do here. We have made progress, and we will continue to work on this to improve further.

This is an area where I believe we must proceed very carefully though. Identifying the “truth” is complicated. While some hoaxes can be completely debunked, a greater amount of content, including from mainstream sources, often gets the basic idea right but some details wrong or omitted. An even greater volume of stories express an opinion that many will disagree with and flag as incorrect even when factual. I am confident we can find ways for our community to tell us what content is most meaningful, but I believe we must be extremely cautious about becoming arbiters of truth ourselves.

As we continue our research, we are committed to always updating you on how News Feed evolves. We hope to have more to share soon, although this work often takes longer than we’d like in order to confirm changes we make won’t introduce unintended side effects or bias into the system. If you’re interested in following our updates, I encourage you to follow our News Feed FYI here: http://bit.ly/2frNWo2.

Overall, I am proud of our role giving people a voice in this election. We helped more than 2 million people register to vote, and based on our estimates we got a similar number of people to vote who might have stayed home otherwise. We helped millions of people connect with candidates so they could hear from them directly and be better informed. Most importantly, we gave tens of millions of people tools to share billions of posts and reactions about this election. A lot of that dialog may not have happened without Facebook.

This has been a historic election and it has been very painful for many people. Still, I think it’s important to try to understand the perspective of people on the other side. In my experience, people are good, and even if you may not feel that way today, believing in people leads to better results over the long term.


Another issue with Facebook is how it feeds you news that it thinks fits your interests, but this filters out different types of topics and different opinions (I don’t use Facebook for following news much but a lot of people do).

An interesting comment just after the US election:

facebookbubble

There’s a lot more news available now but if you want to get different views of news and issues you have to go looking.

 

Labour’s annual conference, offline

I think Labour is having their annual conference this weekend and will mark 100 years since the party was founded, but it’s hard to tell from their online presence.

13615386_10153752496691452_3217164495635400169_n

Oddly I can see no sign of this on the home page on their website.

labourwebsitenoconference

The ‘latest’ is last weekend’s news.

I got the 100 years graphic from their Facebook page, but remarkably there is no obvious sign of their conference there either.Under Events:

labourfacebookevents

That August campaign launch is presumably for the local body elections. No mention of any event relating to the Mount Roskill by-election, and more remarkably, no sign of their centenary conference.

I also see that there’s a gap in the history montage, no Norm Kirk from the 1970s, nor David Lange from the 1980s.

“New Zealand Labour Party does not have any upcoming events.”

Remarkable. Is this a result of the exodus of communications staff from Andrew Little’s office? Or under the Memorandum of Understanding do they leave social media to their Green Party branch?

No sign of any posts  about the conference at The Standard yet either.

Someone must have thought to tell a journalist though, as 1 News have reported Labour to mark centenary, look to future at annual conference.

Do they see no future in online promotions?

Labour will celebrate their past and their future when as many as 600 delegates head to Auckland for their annual conference this weekend.

This year marks 100 years since the party was founded and while marking the milestone the event will focus on the campaign to win government in 2017, President Nigel Haworth says.

“We know it’s going to be difficult because we’ve got a well funded, well resourced government in power,” he told NZ Newswire.

“We’re feeling very comfortable we’ve got a strong campaign.”

“I think the way it’s come out over the last year we’ve dealt with most of the hard issues, this year is very much about campaigning,” Mr Haworth said.

Maybe that strong campaign will be launched at the conference.

“It will be an opportunity for us to reiterate our platform about New Zealand being a place of genuine opportunity for everyone regardless of the circumstances of their birth, and I’ll have a policy to announce relating to jobs,” Mr Little said.

The Party is expecting between 500 and 600 delegates to attend the three-day event which kicks off with a President’s welcome from Mr Haworth tonight.

It starts tonight. Maybe they notified some of their members by snail mail.

Mr Little will address delegates in the main event on Sunday afternoon.

Will Little’s policy on jobs include a new opportunity for someone to promote the Labour Party online?

Advertising – newspapers versus Google

From a @jayrosen_nyu tweet – ‘a useful chart’:

advertising-ewspaperversusgoogle

That gives an indication of why newspapers are struggling, and why some are posting a lot of trivial clickbait on their news sites.

It doesn’t tell the whole advertising story as it excludes broadcast (TV and radio) revenue, and doesn’t include other online advertisers like Twitter.

But it shows graphically how much newspaper advertising revenue has plummeted.

Justice unexpected

The Spinoff has a very funny court transcript from New Plymouth in an outstanding fine case.

The problem for Troy William Henry La Rue, apart from his laxness in paying fines catching up with him, is that a few days earlier he had made a comment on Facebook about the judge he was now standing in front of.

Mr La Rue posted this in response to a Taranaki Daily News item announcing the impending retirement of the judge:

“LOL I hope the fuckers gone by friday. Ha ha. Fucker, nah fuckin cunt whose old face and saggy chin. Fuck off.”

He came to rue that drunken social media remark. Once the judge confronted him about it he said “Well all I can say is you got me on that one.”

But the judge had some more getting him than that.

Transcript: What happens when you appear before a judge you called a c*** on Facebook?

It’s obviously stupid abusing judges, especially judges you could end up standing before in court.

Justice sometimes works in unexpected ways.

Radio NZ abuse

There’s  and interesting issue of abuse on Radio New Zealand’s Checkpoint with John Campbell Facebook page.

Some fairly extreme abuse went on for several days, targeting John Key and his mother.

5:30 pm yesterday Whale Oil picked up on it and posted Why are RadioNZ and John Campbell allowing death threats against the Prime Minister?

6:36 pm David Farrar followed up with a post at Kiwiblog – Hate speech on the Radio NZ Checkpoint Facebook page. 

9:23 pm Farrar also commented about it on it on Twitter:

David Farrar @dpfdpf

The John Campbell Checkpoint Radio NZ FB page has some of the worst hate speech I have seen online. People saying…

9:30 pm this was followed by:

That’s a speedy response once Radio NZ found out. It has since been claimed they ended up deleting around a hundred comments.

Farrar had several digs at Radio NZ over funding, I don’t think that’s the issue here.

My guess is that Radio NZ had had relatively few problems with abusive comments and were caught out by a sudden spate of them. I’m sure they will be more vigilant in the future.

Danyl at Dim-Post joined in on this early this morning – The mysterious case of the hate speech comments on the RNZ Facebook page.

He suggested it looked suspicious.

So it seems really odd that people like Insane Clown Posse fan ‘Tim Wikidclownz‘ would all randomly one weekend decide to pour into a sleepy Radio New Zealand Facebook page and leave comments about gassing John Key’s mother and similar obscenities. And that WhaleOil, the guy who stumbled over that copy of The Luminaries uploaded to Mega that only the person who illegally uploaded it would know about, also stumbled over these.

This has been expanded on in comments.

I haven’t had a detailed look at the Radio NZ comments and they are now deleted, but some at least seem to have been made by people who look like they have been generally abusive. It’s not uncommon on Facebook.

Especially absent any evidence I doubt this was a sophisticated sting by Slater or associates. I’ve had first hand experience of that sort of thing here and there were differences.

I think it’s more likely someone saw the abuse and informed Slater or someone at Whale Oil who then put the post up to take a swipe at Radio NZ.

A good citizen would have informed Radio NZ so they could take appropriate action. It looks like Slater might have passed the story on to Farrar, who later advised radio NZ.Both could have done better but seemed more interested in dumping more on the state funding of Radio NZ

Farrar has followed up with another post today: Further on Radio NZ Facebook page

A few extra thoughts on the hate speech which was on the Radio NZ Checkpoint page.

Unless you vet comments in advance, no publisher can prevent inappropriate comments from appearing. I don’t think anyone blames Radio NZ for the fact they appeared.

Most won’t blame them, it’s unavoidable in forums with open access, as much of Facebook is.

But what one can judge on is how quickly they were removed. RNZ staff acted once there was publicity about it, but for an organisation with $35 million a year of taxpayer funding, the comments should have never lasted as long as they did.

No they shouldn’t. Someone at Radio NZ should probably have picked up on it.

And one would hope someone who noticed the problem would have informed them. That was less a priority than putting up blog posts.

Some salient points:

  1. Some of the comments had been up for three days or longer – conclusion no regular checking of the page.
  2. The comments were incredibly vile – massive use of the c word to describe the PM and one person saying his mother should have been gassed in the holocaust – how could people feel you can say such a thing on a Radio NZ page?
  3. Over 100 comments had to be deleted by RNZ staff, which was close to a quarter of the comments on the page. So this was not one or two comments that slipped through, but a mountain of vile abuse which dominated the page.
  4. No-one alerted RNZ to the comments before they got publicity. If someone used such language about a politician on KB, I’d have several e-mails within minutes from readers alerting me to it. But somehow no one reading the Radio NZ Checkpoint Facebook page thought the comments needed drawing to the attention of Radio NZ. This suggests that the only people on the page were those of a similar view on John Key.
  5. Has Radio NZ done anything beyond delete the comments? Have they reported those who made the most vile comments? Have they blocked them from the Radio NZ FB pages? Or are they free to do the same next time?

Apparently Radio NZ is investigating.

Of course as well as Dim-Post there’s been comment and accusations elsewhere. I’ve seen some on Twitter, but none with supporting evidence.

The irony of Whale Oil and Farrar highlighting and strongly criticising onlibe abuse has not gone unnoticed.

Whale Oil comments have been cleaned up but posts can still be fairly abusive and provocative, and Slater’s tactics online along with people associated with him are amongst the more despicable in New Zealand taking in to account the power imbalance involved.

Comments threads at Kiwiblog are not for the faint hearted, with abusive comments, lies and attacks common. But Farrar will address serious examples if they are pointed out to him.

And this is symptomatic of a major online problem. It can be a wild west where people seem to think they can have a free for all.

While moderation is necessary by those responsible for forums I think there are wider community responsibilities. I think it’s important to confront and stand up against online abuse.

But that’s sometimes not easy and not without substantial risks, as I have found out (I think justice will end up being done but it takes some time).

Online communities should be like any other communities, with responsibility for decent behaviour taken by all those taking part.

We are all learning as we go how to deal with a rapidly evolving online world. We need to keep looking at how to improve on what we have.

And this also requires politicians and media to show a lot more responsibility with their own behaviour and not encouraging and glorifying bad behaviour. More on that next post.

Politics on Facebook

If you want to follow New Zealand politics on Facebook – political party, and media information – a very useful list has been set up:

This should be a useful compilation of what’s happening for journalists and anyone interested in following politics in New Zealand.

It has been set up by Geoffrey Miller who has been compiling “all the MPs’ pages I can find, parties, interest groups etc. Anyone involved in NZ politics really who is worth following.”

It’s a work in progress but already works well and looks to be very useful.

There’s no doubt that Facebook has become a major forum for discussion on the Internet in general, and this applies to politics as with many other things.

I’ve seen political parties in New Zealand favouring their Facebook pages over their official websites for getting information out and for generating discussion. Twitter is just a pointer to what’s on Facebook.

Facebook has it’s strengths but a problem with it is that information is very scattered and easy to miss.

So the NZ Politics list on Facebook is an excellent aid to finding local politics if that’s what you’re interested in.

UPDATE: I have added a link to NZ Politics on Facebook on the right hand end of ther Your NZ menu to make it easy to find.

Conservative Party AGM?

There’s been at least two notifications of Conservative Party AGMs and announcement of a new Board of Management, but no sign of anything happening.

On September 13 Whale Oil (staff) posted 2015 CONSERVATIVE PARTY ANNUAL CONFERENCE AGM ATTENDANCE A BIT OF A FIZZER.

Colin Craig’s Conservative Party scheduled its Annual Conference this weekend.  It started on Friday evening, yesterday was the AGM, followed by a public meeting in the evening, and Colin and his closest friends are having a good conflab at the Centurion castle in Albany this morning.

2222

As I arrived, the Concierge of the Novotel Ellerslie was very helpful and keen to assist me find the conference.   He wondered if I was there for the 50th birthday party?

“No”, I said, “I’m looking for the Conservative Party Annual Conference”.   Not missing a beat, the Concierge suggested I might be at the wrong hotel.

A political party that advertises its Annual Conference, including the all important AGM, and then doesn’t actually have it – is it still a political party?   Party insiders tell me that some members have been nominated for board positions, and (incongruously) ex-member and ex board chair Brian Dodds has agreed to vet them.   The constitution requires an appointment committee.

And a month later (mid-October) on Facebook:

ConservativeAGMFacebook

I’ve searched for news and have found nothing.

The Conservative Party website says nothing about the September non-conference nor the October mystery conference.

The ‘Latest Update’ on the website is Colin Craig Statement of 19 June. Nothing since then, although the website has been updated and no longer shows Colin Craig as Party Leader (my last record of him stated as leader there was on July 28 – see Craig still acting as Conservative leader.

But Craig continues to show as leader on his Twitter account…

ColinnCraigTwitter

…but there hasn’t been any activity there since early August.

Back to Twitter this is his current home page which has also been inactive for three months.

ColinCraigFacebookThe Vote Colin Craig website that links to has also been inactive.

Is there still a Conservative Party?

Another online scam

There seems to regularly be stories about online scams, and a number of these seem to be playing on relationships and ‘love’. Preying on the vulnerable and the gullible is dirty but some people don’t care about the personal damage the do.

There has been two high profile New Zealand drug mule cases. There are often stories off lesser scams, but they can still have a devastating impact, financially and emotionally, on the victims.

In this week’s local community newspaper (The Star) there’s an Online scam warning for women (not easily accessible online).

A woman started communicating with an American on Facebook.

“Within a day he said that he loved me and could see a future with me”.

That carried on for two weeks before he told her he had sent her a parcel with valuable gifts in it, and gave her the track and trace number.

She then received emails from a courier company in Malaysia asking for $2,500 in tax.

She got out a loan and paid the $2,500.

The courier company emailed again saying she would have to pay $15,000 for insurance – so she called the man who told her there was $600,000, a diamond ring, a watch, some jewellery and an iPhone 6.

“He said please, please, please and I’m the type who will do anything for anyone so I went to the bank to get another loan”.

This time the lady at the bank got her to go to the police, but nothing could be done about the $2,500 as it had left the country.

It’s mind boggling how gullible some people are.

It ‘only’ cost this woman $2,500 before someone helped her out of the scam.

A more elaborate scam could have cost Anthony Melmanche his life. He is serving a 15 year prison sentence in Bali.

Can gullible people be helped from their stupidity? Should they be?