Stuff imposes extensive commenting restrictions

Yesterday Stuff announced new terms and conditions for commenting on their website, which puts a lot of restrictions on types of comments and topics that be commented on. This is a flow on effect of  Christchurch Mosque attacks.

Immediately after the attacks David Farrar caused a lot of angst at Kiwiblog by imposing significant commenting restrictions, with anyone not identifying by their real name being put on auto-moderation (each of their comments needs to be approved by a moderator). There is still a lot of grizzling about it. From the last General Debate: (Monday, for some reason there wasn’t one yesterday):

DigNap15:

DF needs to change the name of this blog to
The sickly white liberal apologists blog.

Classical Liberal:

The moderation system is completely unfair to long term, reasonable KB supporters. I have always defended equal rights before the law for men, women, homosexuals, all ethnic groups.

But several of my perfectly reasonable comments are sitting here for hours.

I hope it’s just because it’s a slow Monday, not because the moderators have become immoderate!

Stuff updated yesterday – Terms and Conditions: User submitted content and comments

We (Stuff Limited) invite our readers (you) to post comments and profile information in a number of areas of the website.

The views expressed in the comments areas are not our views or opinions, nor the views or opinions of any of our staff or our related entities. We accept no liability in respect of any material posted in the comments areas, nor are we responsible for the content and accuracy of that material.

If you place reliance on material posted on this website you do so at your own risk, and you indemnify us (and our related entities) from any liabilities, claims, costs, loss (including consequential loss) or damage suffered or caused by reason of your reliance on any material posted in the comments areas.

Comment policy

Stuff welcomes comments from readers on our website.

We invite you to discuss issues and share your views. We encourage robust debate and criticism provided it is civil. But our comment section is a moderated online discussion, not a public forum.

We reserve the right to reject comments, images or links that:

  • are offensive or obscene;
  • contain objectionable or profane language – including use of symbols (we maintain a list of banned obscenities and comments featuring those words will be automatically rejected);
  • include personal attacks of any kind (including name-calling; insults; mocking the subjects of stories or other readers; or abusing Stuff journalists or contributors);
  • are discriminatory or express prejudice on the basis of race, ethnicity, country of origin, gender, sexuality, religion, or disability;
  • contain spam or include links to other sites;
  • are clearly off topic;
  • are deliberate lies or attempts to mislead. While we cannot review all comments for accuracy, we reserve the right to reject comments we consider, on the balance of probabilities, to be deliberate falsehoods;
  • impersonate an individual or organisation, are fraudulent, defamatory of any person, threatening or invasive of another’s privacy or otherwise illegal;
  • are trolling or threatening;
  • advocate or endorse violence, vigilantism or law breaking;
  • infringe on copyrights or trademarks;
  • are self-promoting;
  • violate the law or breach court-ordered suppressions or have the potential to breach future suppressions; or
  • constitute a contempt of court or that contain details of cases and individuals before the courts;
  • violate our terms and conditions for user generated content;
  • promote, advertise or solicit the sale of any goods or services;
  • nitpick other commenters’ spelling or grammar;
  • deny anthropogenic climate change;
  • deny the Holocaust;
  • add nothing to the debate;
  • just generally aren’t very nice.

That covers just about anything stuff decide they don’t want to publish – which is their their right on their website.

Those conditions are quite similar to what Whale Oil has operated under for several years.

Usernames are also bound by these Terms and Conditions and offensive usernames will be blocked. Using your real name is preferred best practice.

We reserve the right to cut, crop, edit or refuse to publish your content. We may remove your content from use at any time.

With rare exceptions, we will not usually enable comments on stories concerning:

  • 1080
  • allegations of criminality or misconduct
  • animal cruelty
  • beneficiaries
  • Christchurch mosque shootings of March 2019
  • court cases
  • domestic violence
  • fluoride
  • funerals
  • immigrants or refugees
  • Israel and Palestine
  • Kashmir
  • missing people
  • race
  • sexual orientation
  • suicide
  • Treaty of Waitangi
  • transgender issues
  • vaccination
  • vulnerable children

That’s a lot of topics deemed out of bounds for commenters.

They say they typically have several thousand comments a day submitted, so it’s a big workload monitoring them all.

Restricted or selective commenting is becoming more common.

Perhaps a reality is that media sites are not suited to open slather comments. Not only are they difficult to manage, they distract from their core purpose, to report news and to provide commentary.

Any site has the right to allow or not allow public comments.

Stuff: Our rights

We retain the right and discretion (but not the obligation) to edit, delete, reject or remove any comment which you post or seek to post in the comments or Stuff Nation areas.

As does any website owner or manager.

Kiwiblog Comments Policy:

Who has the right to post comments on this blog?

Apart from me, no-one at all has the right to post comments. Posting is a privilege, not a right.

Okay, so who is allowed to post comments here?

Anyone at all, up until the stage I ask them to stop or suspend them

There are plenty of other places that people can comment online, so it’s not really a restriction on free speech – before the Internet there was far less freedom to speak via newspapers, radio  and television.

Online discussion and debate will no doubt continue to evolve.

NZ banks’ terms & conditions for handing customer data to the police

Nicky Hager’s lawyer Felix Geiringer  asks: What do New Zealand’s leading banks say in their terms and conditions about handing their customers’ data to Police and other Govt agencies?

They say they will hand over customer to data in breach of Privacy Act. Westpac have apologised to Hager and have promised to change their terms

But the other major banks have made vague assertions that they will not breach customer privacy but still have dodgy terms, and have not made a commitment to change their terms to comply with the law.

Regardless of views about Hager’s use of hacked data, this is an important issue for everyone.

Via Twitter @BarristerNZ:

There has been significant publicity over Westpac’s decision to hand Nicky Hager’s data to Police. But this issue was never limited to Westpac.

A study conducted by the OPC in 2015 suggested that our financial institutions might have been releasing to Govt the data of close to 10,000 customers per annum without a warrant / production order.

Possibly close to 10,000 customers each year! And this appears to have been happening for over a decade.

Plus, all our banks, not just Westpac, had entered into a written agreement with NZ Police to give over customers data without warrants or productions orders.

Basically, all our banks promised Police that they would breach the Privacy Act if Police asked them to. And it looks like Police may have made many thousands of such requests.

Westpac said to Hager that its terms permitted the release. The OPC rejected the argument that those terms could be relied upon. However, Westpac terms, on their face, did set a much lower bar for releasing data than our Privacy or Search and Surveillance legislation.

Westpac have apologised for its breach, and it has also promised to change its terms. There will now be an enforceable contractual promise from that bank to customers that it will not do this again.

What about other banks?

I am told that in answer to journalists’ questions some other banks have made vague assertions that they will not breach customer privacy. But what do their terms actually say?

Kiwibank’s terms are very similar to the ones Westpac had at the time of the Hager release.

Kiwibank’s terms assert that, by banking with it, you authorise it to release your data to Police whenever Kiwibank thinks it will help Police with an investigation.

That test bypasses the protections that parliament has put in place which limit releases to circumstances where Police can objectively establish reasonable grounds to believe the data is evidence of a crime.

ANZ’s terms are almost the same again, arguably even looser. It says that by banking with it you agree that it can give your data to Police if it believes that doing so will help prevent crime.

ASB’s terms are more open to interpretation. It can release data to Police when required to by law. There can be no objection to that. But it can also release data in a variety of other circumstances.

ASB’s terms define the purposes for which it is holding your data to include to “investigate illegal activity”. The terms allow release to 3rd parties for this purpose. However, the Govt isn’t expressly listed as one of those 3rd parties.

If the list of 3rd parties in ASB’s terms is read as a closed list, it arguably has the best terms. If it is not read as a closed list, then it has one of the worst terms.

BNZ’s terms are clear, and are clearly the worst of those discussed here. Its terms claim that you have authorised it to share your data with Police or other Govt agencies for the purpose of detecting any crime.

The circumstances of release permitted by BNZ’s terms are astoundingly broad. Those terms have little regard for the duty to protect the secrecy of BNZ’s customers’ information.

I haven”t analysed TSB’s terms.

So, there you have it, and I think that this raises serious questions. We know the NZ banks were doing a very bad job of protecting our private data. They say they are doing better now, but are they?

And, if these banks are now not handing over data to Police without a warrant or production order, why is this still not reflected in their terms?

Principle 11, Privacy Act 1993 – 6 Information privacy principles: Limits on disclosure of personal information