NetSafe has been appointed as the Approved Agency under the Harmful Digital Communications Act. This appointment will see NetSafe manage and assist internet users with cases of online harassment under a new civil enforcement regime.
As the Approved Agency, NetSafe, will also have a statutory function to provide online safety advice, educate the public and collaborate with service provides and agencies to achieve the purpose of the legislation.
NetSafe is currently establishing the services required to perform the role of the Approved Agency which is expected to launch in November.
WHAT ARE HARMFUL DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS?
Harmful digital communication can take many forms. Whether it is an email with offensive content, or a post on a social media site that attempts to spread rumours or lies about an individual, the common theme that runs through these examples is that they are intended to harm someone.
WHAT ARE DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS?
Digital communications are any form of communication that is transmitted via online technologies. They include:
- Texts and pictures;
- Website content;
- Blog posts;
- Online forums (or “Chatrooms”);
- Social networks or social media sites; and
- Phone based apps
WHAT IS THE HARMFUL DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS ACT?
The Harmful Digital Communications Act provides new mechanisms to help individuals take action to reduce the harm caused by harmful digital communications.
The Act sets out:
- new measures to help victims, and to simplify the process for getting harmful communications off the internet quickly and effectively (for example, establishing the Approved Agency and court-ordered takedown notices, and outlining a complaints handling process that online content hosts must use if they want the protection of the “safe harbour” provision); and
- new criminal offences to penalise the most serious perpetrators (for example, the new criminal offences of causing harm by posting harmful digital communications).
At its core the Act lays out 10 communications principles which define the criteria for which any digital communication may be deemed harmful.
They establish that communications should not be threatening, intimidating or menacing; grossly offensive; indecent or obscene; or denigrating of a person’s race, gender, sexual orientation or disability. The principles also encompass any encouragement for another person to create harmful communication.
A breach of one of the principles alone is not enough to take action. The communication must be likely to or has caused serious emotional distress.