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Cyber Bullying Declared a Criminal Offence in New Zealand

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Cyber bullying is and likely always will be a difficult issue to address. From an outside perspective it can be very difficult to tell when someone is or isn't being abused. Sometimes it's crystal clear, but there's no litmus test, no definitive way of figuring out who is at fault and acting accordingly, so how do you deal with it on a national scale? Well, if you're New Zealand, you make it a legitimate crime, one that's punishable with jail time and a sizable fine.

This new law applies to all forms of electronic communication be they social media based or otherwise, and classifies anything that causes 'emotional distress' or 'harm' as a crime. The bill also details what might constitute an 'intimate visual recording', highlighting how and why such a thing might also be a massive no-no. The prison term can be anything up to 2 years and the fine can be anything up to $50,000 (which works out at $33,500 in US dollars or just under £21,500).

More severely, the law also takes into account online abuse incidents which might have led to a suicide, or attempt to do so. This doesn't necessarily cover things like assisted suicide, that's its own deal, just any behaviour that could be characterised as pressuring or coercing someone into end their own life. In this instance, the sentence maximum increases to 3 years. 

The subject of the content is also talked about, citing racism, homophobia, religious prejudice and other expected topics as the most significant. The laws will be enforced by a digital agency, who are encouraging people to speak to them instead of report abuse directly to Facebook or Twitter, since both have had a history of failing to appropriately address such issues. The agency have said they are more than happy to work with both platforms, under the condition that any offending posts are removed within 48 hours.

Often, reporting cases is the biggest issue with this kind of thing. Cyber bullying affects children more widely than anybody else and in many instances they just won't bring the issue forward. Many governments are focusing more on providing safe spaces and support for victims than going after perpetrators, the UK included, so it was be interesting to see how this approach pans out.


Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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Cyber Bullying Declared a Criminal Offence in New Zealand Reviewed by Callum Davies on Monday, July 06, 2015 Rating: 5

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