7 Nov 2013

Cyber bullying bill will reduce harm, says NetSafe

6:13 am on 7 November 2013

An internet safety group says provisions of a bill on cyber bullying will be effective in reducing harm in an area that can spiral out of control.

Under the Harmful Digital Communications Bill introduced to Parliament on Tuesday, people who send messages and post material online with intent to cause harm would face up to three months in jail or a $2000 fine.

The legislation would also create an offence of incitement to commit suicide.

An agency would be set up to hear complaints and unresolved cases would be referred to the District Court.

NetSafe chairman Rick Shera, an internet law specialist, says cyberbullying can spiral out of control and he thinks this is a good regime to try to address it.

"I don't think the bill is going to cure every ill that's on the internet and it's not intended to do that but I think it will have a good effect, both as a message and as a process for taking down the most egregious of harmful content."

The Law Commission says the proposed laws will give young people an effective forum for help.

The commission says the legislation is timely given the publicity about the a group of boys in Auckland calling themselves Roast Busters who boasted online of having sex with drunken girls, some of them underage, and posted details about the girls.

Justice Minister Judith Collins says the legislation would allow police to remove such videos without the victim complaining.

She says complainants could request a cease and desist order and a complaint could lead to a three year prison sentence for the perpetrators.