If you are being bullied or harassed online, Netsafe explain on their website that they can offer advice for lots of different situations.
These include when someone has put something online that:
- Tries to get someone to hurt themselves
- Encourages other people to send harmful messages to someone
- Most people would think is very offensive
- Shares someone’s sensitive private information without their permission
- Makes a false allegation about someone
- Shares confidential information about someone without their permission
- Puts someone down because of their colour, race, ethnic or national origins, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or disability
- Is indecent or obscene
- Threatens to hurt someone or damage their property
They have a trained team that can assess your situation and support you with working our your options.
They are the ‘approved agency’ for the Harmful Digital Communications Act.
This means that the Ministry of Justice have given them the authority to provide support to deal with and prevent online issues and this includes cyberbullying specifically.
What is the Harmful Digital Communications Act?
The Act is a piece of New Zealand law created to prevent and reduce harm caused by online bullying, harassment, revenge porn and other forms of online abuse and intimidation.
To do this, the Act has introduced:
- new ways for people to get help with harmful online content through Netsafe and the District Courts; and
- new criminal offences to penalise very serious cases
There are also communications principles to clearly outline your rights and responsibilities.
A digital communication should not:
- Reveal or share sensitive personal facts about an individual.
- Be threatening, intimidating or menacing.
- Be grossly offensive to a reasonable person in the position of the affected individual.
- Be indecent or obscene.
- Be used to harass an individual.
- Make a false allegation.
- Contain a matter that is published in breach of confidence.
- Incite or encourage anyone to send a message to an individual for the purpose of causing harm to the individual.
- Incite or encourage an individual to commit suicide.
- Insult someone about their colour, race, ethnic or national origins, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.
Netsafe will investigate when a complaint or report is made about someone breaching one or more of the Communications Principles and work with the people involved to find a resolution.
What can Netsafe do?
On their site, Netsafe outline how they can help. They explain:
‘We’ll tell you what you can do to keep safe, and if there’s anything that can be done to stop the abuse. We may try to work with the person who is harassing you to get them to stop – but we won’t contact them unless you say it’s OK.
We might also be able to contact the person or the organisation that runs the website, app or service that the messages or posts are on and ask for their help to resolve the issue.
Our service aims to lessen the harm caused to people targeted online by using mediation and negotiation to reach a resolution for both parties. Netsafe cannot punish people for their actions online, or force them to take action”.
How can they help?
Netsafe is an organisation that can provide information and support as well as free and confidential advice when you are worried or hurt online.
- advise you on the steps that can be taken to resolve or help the situation,
- Look into complaints about harmful online content
- Work with social media platforms, website hosts, internet service providers and others to remove harmful posts, comments, messages or other content
- Get in touch with the person or people that have published or sent the harmful content to try and resolve the issue-but they won’t contact them unless you say its OK
- Let you know about your legal options and the possible outcome if you want to take your complaint to the district court (if Netsafe can’t help you reach a resolution)
How do I get in touch with them?
You can make a report through their website https://www.netsafe.org.nz/report/ or you can free phone them seven days a week on 0508 NETSAFE. They’re open between 8am and 8pm on weekdays, and between 9am and 5pm on weekends and public holidays.
You can make the report yourself, or someone can do it on your behalf.
When you phone them, they will ask you questions so they can understand what’s going on- like how long it has been happening, who is involved and any other information to help them to evaluate your report.If you have evidence like screenshots or links to content and messages, it’s helpful to be able to send these through.
When you make a report online, you will be asked to select from a range of multi choice questions to give information about the situation and the support you (or the person you are making the report for) is receiving, give your contact information and also a ‘short summary’ of what happened.
You will also be asked how concerned you are for your safety.
Whether you make your report by phone or using the online form, you will be given a report number that will create a ‘thread’ of emails to keep all of the communication together.If you make your report online, you will then receive an email confirming your report has been received and that one of the team will be in touch once they have evaluated it using the contact details you gave in the form.
What happens next?
One of the Netsafe team will get in touch with you after they have evaluated your report. They will let you know what your options are and what steps they can take on your behalf.
They will let you know if what you are reporting is a criminal offence and needs to be reported to your local Police.
They will keep you updated on the progress of the steps they take on your behalf.
You can also get in touch using the email thread or the helpline if anything else happens or if you have more information to share.
When does it need to go further than Netsafe?
If Netsafe is unable to help you to resolve the situation, you have the option to take the matter to the aDistrict Court, but you need to try and resolve things with Netsafe first.
The Court is able to order the removal of content and a published apology.
If your situation is very serious, it may fall under the criminal part of the Act. Criminal cases are dealt with by the Police, and Netsafe can let you know if you should be making a report to the Police.
The Police can apply to the court (without going through NetSafe) in specific cases.
What can the District Court do?
If you can’t resolve the situation with Netsafe and you do apply to the District Court, they have a broad range of options available to them, including:
- orders to take down material
- cease-and-desist orders (where the person has to stop immediately)
- orders to publish a correction, apology or give you the opportunity to reply to the messages
- orders to release the identity of the source of an anonymous communication
- ordering name suppression for any parties.
Under this process, the court will order people to do certain things – they won’t receive fines or time in jail.
If the case is a criminal case (handled by the Police), the court will be able to issue fines and jail sentences.