Microsoft Against Proposed Changes to New Zealand's Cyberbullying Law

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By Reissa Su | March 27, 2014 5:59 PM EST

Microsoft is against the proposed changes in New Zealand's Harmful Digital Communications Bill. If the amendments are approved, the victims of cyberbullying can file their complaints in court. The Windows PC maker said the new law would establish a different standard of online abuse in New Zealand.

Reuters
A man talks on the phone as he surfs the internet on his laptop at a local coffee shop in downtown Shanghai November 28, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

With New Zealand's MPs as its audience, Microsoft said new changes to the cyberbullying law will not change users' online behaviour. The company suggested that the New Zealand government should focus on launching education campaigns and promoting self-help tools on the Internet.

Microsoft New Zealand was one the biggest industry supporters to make submissions on the bill which would add more offences for cyberbullying. The proposed changes include creating a new agency to handle cyberbullying complaints and allowing victims to be referred to district courts.

New Zeaaland's Harmful Digital Communications Bill will include 10 communication principles that would help Kiwi authorities determine whether or not online content is harmful or if any sensitive information was disclosed.  Harmful online content also includes making false allegations and encouraging others to harm themselves.

Natasha Crampton, Microsoft's legal counsel, said these principles will allow a different standard in communicating online. She said enforcing the new changes will only be "counter-productive" for others to change their online behaviour.

Ms Crampton said that to address the issue of cyberbullying, an awareness campaign should be launched and a separate agency should act as the intermediary between victims and international agencies.

New Zealand MPs had challenged Microsoft  and said online abuse has become more harmful since bullies can hide their real identities, thereby spreading offensive online content easier.

According to Telecom, the new provisions may be regarded as censorship and may be abused by "victims."

The recent death of TV personality Charlotte Dawson has once again fueled the never-ending debate about the evils of the Internet. Ms Dawson was a victim of cruel comments in social media. Some people against cyberbullying are calling for the bullies to be taken to court, while others want an end to anonymity on the Internet.

The Harmful Digital Communications Bill was introduced by Justice Minister Judith Collins. New Zealand is leading the rest of the world in response to the growing cyberspace problem.

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(Photo: Reuters / )
A man talks on the phone as he surfs the internet on his laptop at a local coffee shop in downtown Shanghai November 28, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
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