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Harmful Digital Communications Bill

Seeks to mitigate the harm caused to individuals by electronic communications and to provide victims of harmful digital communications with a quick and effective means of redress. Sets up an agency to assess complaints, where appropriate investigating and using negotiation, mediation, or persuasion to resolve matters. The agency’s primary functions would include education. The bill also sets up a process to take down material from websites. Introduced in Nov 2013 with select committee reporting back on May 27, 2014. Labour criticised the fast tracking of the bill and urged caution. Some have expressed concern that punishment for offences on the internet would be more severe than a similar offence in the street. At its second reading Labour, the Greens and NZ First attempted to have the bill sent back to select committee for further consideration following lobbying from internet companies. This was blocked by National, Maori Party,  ACT and United Future. The second reading was completed on March 31 with Labour and NZ First opposed arguing amongst other things it would criminalise children. After talks between Communication Minister Amy Adams and other parties changes were agreed to the bill intended to reduce the criminalisation aspects of the bill. During the committee stage on June 23 Government amendments were backed by all parties except ACT. The bill passed its third reading on June 30 by 116 to 5 with ACT’s David Seymour and four Green MPs opposed. It was the first time Seymour had voted against a Government bill. Many MPs still expressed concerns about the bill impinging on freedom of speech and the processes being set up to deal with “cyber-bullying”. Many felt the bill would have to be revisited within a year. Harmful Digital Communications Bill