Harmful communications law a threat to free speech


 

Sir Ray Avery’s complaint against Newsroom under the Harmful Digital Communications Act is exactly the kind of unintended consequence ACT predicted when National proposed the law, says Party Leader David Seymour.

 

Avery has complained to Netsafe that a series of articles by Newsroom have caused him serious emotional distress.

 

“The National Government’s HDCA was a classic case of bad lawmaking. We had a high-profile event – the Roastbusters case – and then a populist, knee-jerk reaction from the politicians.

 

“The legislation had good intentions – to protect people from online bullying. But only results matter. Bad legislation with good intentions is still bad legislation.

 

“In 2015, I predicted that the ten vague ‘be nice’ communications principles would be inadvertently broken by tweets, online news articles, blogs, emails, Facebook posts, or comments on websites.

 

“The principles would be used to bully the media into taking down legitimate material, especially when they were threatened with the time and process of the district court process.

 

“In short, they would be used as a weapon to curtail free speech.

 

“The Avery case shows those predictions were accurate.

 

“Only ACT and four Green Party MPs had the guts to stand up for freedom of expression and vote against the bill.

 

“The National Government’s populist, knee-jerk law will do very little to protect young people from online bullying but is having unintended consequences and doing damage to our basic rights and freedoms.”