Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ) welcomes the Government’s review of the New Zealand regulatory system for media and online platforms, aimed at reducing exposure to harmful content and making the internet safer.
The Safer Online Services and Media Platforms Review will design and implement a new approach to content regulation that minimises the risk of harm caused by content to New Zealanders. The updated regulatory system is intended to be:
- Modern – able to respond to the types of harm caused by the wide variety of content and content platforms we currently interact with;
- Flexible – adaptive to emerging technologies, any new content platforms and future shifts in societal values or expectations; and
- Simple – easier for users to navigate if they have a content-related concern; for content creators and providers to comply with; and for regulators to regulate.
While increasing protection from harm, the Review will ensure any new system upholds rights to freedom of expression, preserves the freedom of the press, and is consistent with Te Tiriti o Waitangi principles.
TINZ agrees that the current system is out-dated, inconsistent, ineffective, and fails to adequately cover social and other emerging media. We support the shift from a fragmented, platform-specific approach – given its anomalies, omissions and inadequacies - to a consistent, platform-neutral, content-focused approach outlined in the discussion document.
We endorse the objectives and principles guiding the review - in particular, that interventions should be reasonable and able to be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. This includes the principle that freedom of expression should be constrained only where, and to the extent, necessary to avoid greater harm to society, and that the freedom of the press should be protected.
TINZ believes it is essential to balance protecting people and wider society from harmful and unsafe content against maintaining open channels for debate, freedom and transparency of information. From TINZ’s perspective, adherence to the above principle is essential to maintaining this balance, but we would go further and state that freedom of thought, speech and expression in general, not only should be, but must be, protected.
TINZ supports the four key elements of proposed new regulatory framework:
- An industry regulation model that uses codes of practice that set expectations for an industry or sector group to achieve safety obligations;
- A fully independent regulator to approve codes of practice and oversee the framework, at arm’s length from government;
- Continuing to remove and block access to the most harmful content; and
- Education and awareness initiatives.