If the internet is the new public square, it is imperative that lawmakers ensure the ability of all New Zealanders to access reliable and credible information about issues of public importance, and the ability of everyone in this country to participate safely in public conversations about those issues.
Based on our analysis, we are making four recommendations to the New Zealand government:
Remove: Ensure platforms are active in removing harmful content quickly. An investigation into the most effective method to do this would be required, but the responsibility should be placed on the platform, not the users.
Reduce: Limit the reach of harmful content. Neither the platforms nor the users who create hateful and harmful content should benefit from algorithms that promote divisive and polarising messages.
Review: The New Zealand government needs to review our hate speech laws, the Harmful Digital Communications Act, the Domestic Violence Act, the Harassment Act and the Human Rights Act to ensure they are fit for purpose in protecting people online in the 21st century.
Recalibrate: One of the most significant themes to emerge in this research was the need to attend not just to individualised concerns (e.g. individual rights and privacy) but also to collective dynamics and wellbeing. Any policies that are developed to protect people online need to have indigenous and collectivist thinking at their centre. They should also ensure that all internet safety / hate speech agencies funded by the Crown reflect the increasing diversity of our country.
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