New Zealand Criminalizes Internet Trolling

| by Michael Allen

The New Zealand parliament recently passed a new law that criminalizes Internet trolling with up to two years in prison.

Trolling is when people intentionally cause uproar and controversy online, but can be a very vague area.

The Harmful Digital Communications Act bans “harmful digital communications,” notes The Telegraph.

The "harmful digital communications" could include true and false claims, and “intimate visual recordings.”

Individuals can be fined $50,000 New Zealand dollars (about $33,000 U.S. dollars), while companies can be fined up to $200,000 (about $134,000 U.S. dollars).

Additionally, an amendment to New Zealand's Crimes Act can jail people for up to three years if they encourage others to kill themselves online.

The law was reportedly inspired after some teen boys in Auckland, New Zealand, were accused of sexually assaulting young girls and bragging about the incidents online.

People, who support the law, claim it will help discourage this kind of cyber-bullying, but detractors say it infringes on free speech and threatens journalism.

The Dominion Post, a newspaper in Wellington, New Zealand, posted an editorial that stated in part:

"As even its opponents acknowledge, the law's intentions are good and the need for something like it was clear. Unfortunately, as it is drafted, the law goes too far – it may well pick up in its drift-net the sorts of noise and criticism that make for the talk of a free society."

"...There are already civil avenues, such as defamation law, for those who feel unduly harmed by such coverage – equally, there are important defenses to such actions. The new law should have included similar exemptions or qualifications for reporting, for humor, and for honest opinions based on facts."

Sources: The Telegraph, The Dominion Post
Image Credit: Wiki-vr