InternetNZ has responded to the Harmful Digital Communications Bill passing its third and final reading in Parliament, saying the sooner the education efforts at the heart of the legislation start, the better.
"The best way to help people deal with the challenges they encounter online is through making sure they have the skills to do so,” states Jordan Carter, Internet NZ chief executive.
“That's why the education aspects of this legislation, to be implemented by the Approved Agency, are so important – and are so widely supported.
“More broadly, this law contains a careful balance - new initiatives to help people deal with some of the challenges of online environments, along with penalties for those who cause harm,” Carter says.
"We all recognise the harm that can occur online. However, dealing with this harm must involve workable processes and not damage free speech or expression online."
He says part of that balance will be ensuring that these measures are only used when serious harm is indeed occurring. “This regime shouldn't be used lightly".
InternetNZ has been an active participant and submitter throughout the extended genesis of this legislation.
"We were particularly concerned about ‘safe harbour' for those that host content online, so long as they follow due process,” Carter explains. “We are pleased to see the final legislation include improvements in this area – many of the concerns raised have been resolved."
“No legislation is perfect, and this is no exception. Like all law that applies in a fast-moving technology environment, the risk is of unintended consequences – or chosen balances of rights not working out in practice.
Carter says InternetNZ calls upon parliamentarians to keep a careful eye on the implementation of this legislation to ensure that appropriate balance is maintained.
"We must all remain vigilant that we have appropriate responses to online harm without damaging free expression,” he continues.
“I know many in the internet community will be keeping a close eye on this. Parliament and the Government will be too. That is as it should be.
“If there is any sign that the good intentions behind this legislation are instead leading to unacceptable restrictions on people's right to communicate, then quick changes will be important.
Carter says, “The sooner the Approved Agency is selected and the sooner the educational elements of this policy are in place, the better.”