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New Zealand Government Scraps Proposed Internet Content Regulation

New Zealand Government Scraps Proposed Internet Content Regulation

May 10, 2024

New Zealand Government Scraps Proposed Internet Content Regulation

The new centre-right government in New Zealand has decided to abandon plans for a mandatory code of conduct for social media platforms and a new independent regulator for online content, in the face of significant public opposition. This proposal, which was first put forth last year by the Department of Internal Affairs, targeted companies like Meta, X, and YouTube, and aimed to grant regulatory powers to enforce the removal of material and impose fines for breaches.

The Department of Internal Affairs had initially argued that the rules would apply to all relevant companies, irrespective of their registration or residency status in New Zealand. Internal Affairs Policy Manager Suzanne Doig had acknowledged uncertainty over the department's jurisdiction but maintained that the platforms would be subject to the codes regardless of their participation. The proposed regulation would also have extended to traditional media, potentially replacing self-regulatory bodies and independent state agencies.

However, the response to the initial discussion paper was overwhelmingly negative. The public's reaction, coupled with the election of a government that prioritized other issues, led to the shelving of the proposal. A spokesperson for the Department of Internal Affairs confirmed the decision, stating, "Content regulatory reform of the scale proposed by the Safer Online Services and Media Platforms work is not a ministerial priority for the Minister of Internal Affairs Brooke van Velden."

The Department received over 20,000 submissions from individuals and organizations, the bulk of which were critical of the proposal. The New Zealand Free Speech Union, which facilitated 18,978 responses through its online campaign, was a prominent opponent. The Union's Chief Executive, Jonathan Ayling, condemned the proposal, arguing it was tantamount to "hate speech laws for the internet" and detrimental to democracy.

Conversely, a majority of the 105 organizations that submitted feedback, including those from technology, media, and regulatory sectors, supported the proposal. InternetNZ, a non-profit responsible for managing New Zealand's ".nz" domain, voiced its disappointment with the government's decision to drop the proposal.

As a result of this abandonment, New Zealand's approach to internet regulation will continue to rely on a "voluntary code" established by Netsafe in 2022, supported by major tech companies like Meta, Google, TikTok, Amazon, and X. However, this Aotearoa Code of Practice for Online Safety and Harms has faced criticism from several non-profit organizations, including InternetNZ, which question its legitimacy.

The Epoch Times Article


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