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Cyber Bullying

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Andrew Scott-Howman 2015
Andrew Scott-Howman

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Author: Andrew Scott-Howman
Published: 25 September 2015
Pages: 20


The Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015 received the Royal Assent on 2 July 2015.
The purpose of this paper is to:

  • Explain the origin and purpose of this new legislation; and
  • Provide practical tips to practitioners who may be required to provide advice about the Act.

In August 2012 The Law Commission issued a Ministerial Briefing Paper titled Harmful Digital Communications: the adequacy of the current sanctions and remedies. It represented a careful study of some of the threats posed by the way new technologies are being used in our society, and concluded that New Zealand’s existing laws were, in some respects, likely to be ineffective in addressing them.

The Law Commission made a series of recommendations for change, many of which are borne out in the Harmful Digital Communications Act. In order to gain an understanding of the legislation (and its intended effect) it is helpful to give some regard to the Law Commission’s Paper, and its logic for change. The first part of this paper seeks to achieve that.

Some provisions in the legislation are enacted with immediate effect. Others will come into force later. The second part of this paper examines the detail of the Act, and offers some guidance to practitioners about its practical application.

Finally, the Act has received a considerable amount of public criticism. Many commentators have expressed concern about the potential effect of the legislation – including claims that it is likely to be ineffective, or counterproductive to the achievement of its desired ends. More fundamentally, there are serious concerns about the Act’s potential to interfere with rights protected by the Bill of Rights legislation. The third part of the paper reviews some of these criticisms, and offers points for practitioners to consider when providing advice about this new law.

Content outline

  • The Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015
    • The reason for this law, and recommendations for change
    • Part 2 of The Act
    • Some criticisms of the legislation
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