New Zealand may be home to the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, but now the country is cracking down on trolls – albeit we’re on about the keyboard-tapping sort.
The country’s government has just passed the new Harmful Digital Communications Bill, which has made it through its third and final reading and has now been given royal assent. As a result, it’s not officially illegal to troll in New Zealand.
You could now be fined up to $50,000NZ (Rs. 21.3L) for sending a “harmful digital communication” while in the country. The bill covers a range of popular cyberbullying topics, including comments that are racist, sexist, religiously intolerant, or discriminatory towards given sexual orientations or those with disabilities.
Big corporations aren’t immune from this either; a company found to be trolling could face $200,000NZ (Rs. 8.54L). There’s also a maximum three-year jail term up for grabs for anyone who thinks inciting suicide is an okay thing to do.
Of course, the bill has come haters. Critics argue that the open-ended wording of the bill could cause children to be criminalized, as well as undermining free speech.
Chief executive of digital rights group InternetNZ Jordan Carter explains: “No legislation is perfect, and this is no exception.”
He continues: “We must all remain vigilant that we have appropriate responses to online harm without damaging free expression,” he says. “If there is any sign that the good intentions behind this legislation are instead leading to unacceptable restrictions on people’s right to communicate, then quick changes will be important.”