Updated: Harmful Digital Communications Bill

Update:  The Select Committee reported back on the Harmful Digital Communications Bill earlier this year.  For those interested in online content hosts' liability for user generated content, the proposed safe harbour, resulting from the work of a coalition of interested parties, is well worth a look.

The Harmful Digital Communications Bill would set up an Approved Agency to try, by "negotiation, mediation and persuasion” to deal with harmful material which is posted online. 

Harmful material is that which would be seriously emotionally distressful to an individual (but which may not necessarily be illegal under any other law). The idea is that the Approved Agency would work with the complainant and the person who has posted the material to get it taken down or modified and, failing that, with service providers such as Facebook and Google, to get the material taken down if it breaches their terms of service, as it usually will. If that all fails, then the complainant (or their parent, guardian or school principal) could refer the matter to the District Court which will decide whether a remedy is appropriate by reference to a range of "communication principles” set out in the Bill. The Bill would also introduce an explicit safe harbour for ISPs, covering all areas of potential legal liability for their users’ behaviour, other than copyright, which is dealt with already under the Copyright Act, and several new offences, including incitement to commit suicide. 
Submissions on the Bill to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee close on 21 February 2014 (extended from the original January 2014 closing date).

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