Censoring cyber-bullies: Is the Harmful Digital Communications Bill a justified limitation on the right to freedom of expression?
Harmful Digital Communications have become a pervasive and serious problem in New Zealand. The Harmful Digital Communications Bill aims to address this problem in a number of ways. This paper focuses on the civil enforcement regime and the criminal offence of causing harm by posting a digital communication established by the Bill. It considers these aspects of the Bill in light of the right to freedom of expression, and analyses whether they constitute a justified limitation on that right. By applying the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 section 5 analysis from Hansen v R, the paper discovers that the civil enforcement regime is a justified limitation, but the new criminal offence is not. The paper concludes that the inclusion of a public interest defence in the offence would allow it to effectively ameliorate the harm caused by online abuse without impinging on freedom of expression more than is reasonably necessary.