New Zealand is taking a strong stand against internet bullying. Under a new bill outlawing “harmful digital communications,” the country can punish internet trolls with up to three years of jail time.
Passed last week by an overwhelming majority (116-5) of the country’s parliament, the Harmful Digital Communications Bill went into effect on June 6. The new law will require tech companies such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter to ask users to remove flagrant posts within 24 hours, according to the BBC. After that time, the companies will be responsible for removing the posts themselves.
Though tech companies like Twitter and Google have taken measures to reduce cyber bullying, some worry this new legislation is too broad and infringes on free speech. In an editorial published over the weekend, New Zealand’s Dominion Post voiced these concerns:
The penalties at stake are substantial, yet the “communications principles” are too broad— they capture any digital communication that is judged “indecent,” “false” or “used to harass an individual,” as well as a catalogue of other sins.
In New Zealand, anyone who has been convicted of sending digital communications that cause “serious emotional distress” can face a fine of up to NZ$50,000 (US$33,600) or two years in jail. The penalty increases to NZ$200,000 (US$134,500) for businesses in violation of the law. Furthermore, under an amendment to New Zealand’s Crime Acts, inciting or encouraging another person to commit suicide is punishable with up to three years of prison.