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BizReport : Law & Regulation : July 06, 2015

New Zealand passes law criminalizing cyberbullying

It's official - cyberbullying is now a criminal offence in New Zealand as the government passes a new bill.

by Helen Leggatt

Causing "serious emotional distress" and trolling via digital means such as Facebook or Twitter is now punishable under law in New Zealand.

The Harmful Digital Communications Bill has been passed and punishments include fines of up to NZ$50,000 (US$33,400) or jail time of up to three years can be faced by those who post content that can be construed as racist, sexist, intolerant of religion or inciting suicide, even if the person targeted does not actually commit suicide.

According to, an independent non-profit organization that promotes confident, safe, and responsible use of online technologies, 1 in 5 high school students in New Zealand have been a victim of cyberbullying.

Under the new law, children under the age of 14 can not be charged with cyberbullying but those charged who are aged 14 to 16 will go via the youth justice system.

An agency will be set up to investigate complaints and work with sites such as Facebook and Twitter to get offending material taken down, as well as educate the public about cyberbullying and online trolling.

However, the law remains a contentious issue with many arguing that it damages rights to freedom of speech.

"This legislation has received strong support from organizations such as the Human Rights Commission," said NZ MP Metiria Turei, co-leader of the Green Party. "However, there have been strong submissions from media organizations who are concerned that this legislation may have a chilling effect upon freedom of speech."

Image via Shutterstock

Tags: cyberbullying, Internet, law and regulation, New Zealand

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