14 Mar 2014

Bullying online could lead to penalty

10:32 pm on 14 March 2014

People who make highly offensive comments on social media could be forced to pay their victims compensation if a proposed new cyber bullying law is adopted.

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The legislation would open the way for the Privacy Commissioner to investigate spiteful or vengeful comments on social media, something the commissioner cannot do at present.

The commissioner, John Edwards, said on Friday the proposed law change is part of a suite of other cyber bullying reforms which would give people the right to ask their internet service provider to close down offensive content and could even result in a court order to stop the behaviour.

Mr Edwards said if a victim wanted to seek damages at the end of those processes, the Privacy Commission would investigate. "If you've suffered harm a tribunal can order a respondent to pay damages for that, so it's similar to defamation."

Under the legislation, the maximum penalty would be $200,000. Mr Edwards thinks compensation cases would be quite rare.