The Law-Hate and Abuse

Harming someone by Targeting or Harassing them online can be against the law

In New Zealand, there is now a law to help tackle the most serious instances of  harassment by people using digital technology.

This is the Harmful Digital Communications Act (HDCA).

It is illegal to send messages and post material online that deliberately causes a victim ‘serious emotional distress’ whether this happens once or more than once.


What does that mean?

It means that as well as reporting it to different Social Media Platforms, you  have additional support available to you to get photos, other hurtful images or messages taken down and stop them from being shared again.

This can be through Netsafe, the District Court or the Police and can involve either criminal or civil remedies.

Criminal Remedies

Criminal remedies could include a fine of up to $50,000 (for an individual) or up to two years in jail.

There are also criminal OR civil remedies under the The Harmful Digital Communications Act (HDCA) if someone causes ‘serious emotional distress’ online.

The criminal remedies do not apply to children (aged 0-13), but can be applied to young people aged 14-16 (within the youth justice system) and individuals aged 17+ (who are treated as adults within the formal criminal justice system).

This also means that the police may be involved and that there is a clear process that is followed after you report what is happening.  In some cases this will involve a court case.

It is important to remember that for the police to charge somebody with breaking a law, they have to have enough evidence to clearly prove who it was and exactly what happened.

The police also have to weigh up whether what is happening to you, meets all of the requirements of the law.

Sometimes, even though it is not ok and making you really upset, this is not enough to charge someone.

Civil Remedies

Netsafe can support you with some civil remedies including working with both parties to reach a resolution, working with online content hosts (like Social Media platforms) but they cannot punish anyone or force them to do something.

Civil remedies could also involve a court order where a person can be forced to remove or delete content, give an apology or the identity of someone who posted anonymously revealed.


What laws might apply?

The main one that is being used for someone bullying or harassing you online  is  the Harmful Digital Communications Act.

Other options or remedies are available under:

  • The Harassment Act
  • The Defamation Act