The Law-Hate Page

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 bullying and harassment by people using digital technology.

This is the Harmful Digital Communications Act (HDCA).

It’s now illegal to send messages and post material online that deliberately causes a victim ‘serious emotional distress’.

This could include Hate Pages or Channels.


What does that mean?

It means that as well as reporting the pages or channels to different Social Media Platforms or to Youtube, you also have additional support available to you to help you to get photos, videos and other hurtful content taken down and stop it 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 apply to the most serious cases and 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 theThe Harmful Digital Communications Act (HDCA) if someone posts nudes or intimate images WITHOUT someone’s permission.

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

They can also work 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 may be available under:

  • The Harassment Act
  • The Defamation Act

For a more detailed breakdown of the laws around online harm, please check out the Sticks ‘n Stones website.