The Government has announced its plans to introduce legislation which would create an online regulator who is responsible for policing what you say online.
Like an Orwellian ‘Ministry of Truth’ it will create a rulebook for what content online platforms are allowed to publish. The regulator won’t be democratically elected or have any accountability to the public, meaning this independent and self-governing entity, that would appear to be exempt from the pesky obligations and duties of the public service, will have complete control over what they deem permissible content online.
It cannot be ignored that increasingly important discussions are stifled by unsubstantiated claims of racism. Issues as varied as water management, health, care for vulnerable children, law and order, resource management...the list goes on. When race is inserted at that heart of almost all Government policy our ability to discuss, debate and object must be preserved. This proposal seeks to limit on-line and media information but more worryingly is the insertion of differentiated rights for Maori.
What can we do?
We have to do something. We can't sit back and watch as our right to speak freely online is destroyed. Your silence will be considered acceptance of this radical departure from the right to express our views or challenge issues.
The team at the Free Speech Union has set up an easy submission tool for providing feedback to the Government so we didn't think it necessary for us to set up an identical one. However, there are some elements of this dangerous set of proposals that are specifically in Hobson's Pledge's wheelhouse and we have provided you with some points below that you can copy and paste into your submission.
What are our concerns?
Putting bureaucrats in charge of what New Zealanders can and can't say online and in the media is a recipe for disaster. Can you imagine the narrow range of views they would deem acceptable?
It almost goes without saying that the Hobson's Pledge Facebook Page wouldn't last long with an empowered group activist regulators policing the web and we would not be alone.
Essentially, this is hate speech law via the back door, except with even more vagueness and ambiguity.
The discussion document that proposes the online regulator also proposes that it run under a co-governance style model. It proposes that "iwi and Māori would have a role in the governance of the regulator" and "have significant input in developing the codes".
These codes are codes of practice, defined as “a set of standards or requirements that platforms would have to meet”, that will be established by a system that differentiates rights according to race.
Additionally, it places great importance on what it deems "the government's obligations" under the Treaty of Waitangi. However, what are framed as "obligations" are not defined or specified, and in fact exist no where in legislation. The effect will be separate rules and rights for Māori compared to everyone else.
The concept of Te Ao Māori (Māori world view) is also touted as needing to be part of the Codes of Practice for each platform. Despite the strong emphasis on the importance of the Māori world view there is no information about what that would look like practically.
We have already seen the challenges in legislation and policy where Māori concepts and terms are unable to be defined to provide a clear understanding. How then are we to be expected to manage our online content to accommodate the sensitivities that would be based around ALL Māori being treated as if there is no individual identity but a collective consensus of identity.
This is another serious example of the public service attempting to embed co-governance into every aspect of our society. This presents a threat to our rights, democracy, and the ability for all New Zealanders to be equal before the law.
Key points to include in your submission:
These proposals should be rejected and the Department of Internal Affairs should be required to produce a new proposal that assures all New Zealanders equal freedom of speech and expression.
- It is proposed that "there is a role for Māori in the governance and decision-making of the regulator, as well as in developing the codes and delivering education." Although this suggestion lacks detail, we can compare it to such initiatives as we have seen in local government, Three Waters, the RMA Reforms, Te Pukenga, the Health Reforms, and more. Wherever we have seen co-governance implemented or proposed it has eroded democratic equality and made holding decision-makers accountable impossible. It is unfathomable that a regulator with such wide reaching power online would be governed by such a flawed system. This proposal should be rejected due to the differentiation of rights to free speech based upon race.
- Te Ao Maōri is included in the vision for the Codes of Practice, but it is unclear what this means in practice. There is no definition of what aspects of a Māori world view will be present in regulation of the speech for all New Zealanders. This should have been defined before submissions were called for. There is mention that "the regulator should also have in-house te ao Māori capacity and capability." Again, it is not clear what that means. This proposal should be rejected due to the differentiation of rights to free speech based upon race.
- I firmly believe in equality before the law for all New Zealanders. It is alarming to read in the discussion document that the Department of Internal Affairs thinks it is appropriate to suggest that one group of New Zealanders have explicitly different rights to the rest. The proposal states "the Crown must protect the rights of Māori to express themselves freely" when it should protect the rights of ALL New Zealanders to express themselves freely. I condemn in the strongest terms any proposal that includes the kind of discriminatory policy that assigns rights based on race or ancestry. This proposal should be rejected due to the differentiation of rights to free speech based upon race.
- Despite already suggesting that Māori have special roles in the governance of the regulator and that Māori have their rights uniquely protected, the discussion document also proposes that there "be scope for kaupapa Māori platforms (for example, Whakaata Māori or iwi radio stations) to develop their own codes of practice." This suggests that there is no regulatory oversight for Māori platforms which creates a divisive and discriminatory system. This proposal should be rejected due to the differentiation of rights to free speech based upon race.
- The document describes that "the regulator will be responsible for meeting the government’s obligations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi" and that "means appropriate processes would be built into the code development and approval process, including ensuring Māori participation and that codes reflect Māori social and cultural values." It is unclear how these things are encompassed under the Treaty and bring up further concerns that this regulator would be impotent to deal with Māori speech and have boundless power to deal with everyone else.
- The proposed regulator will be required to moderate and monitor which would likely require resolutions to be achieved. In the outline of how this would operate "tikanga Māori conflict-resolution and problem-solving processes" are referenced. As a nation of some 200 ethnicities there would likely be a range of race-based considerations. There is insufficient detail to comment on how this system would work and reads as poorly considered theory as opposed to a cohesive framework to promote safety online. We do not need further disparities in this country, especially not in regards to rights. This proposal should be rejected due to the differentiation of rights to free speech based upon race.
- The proposal infers New Zealand is made up of only Māori and white/European/Pakeha people. Far from being bicultural, we are a multicultural nation and the laws of our land and any regulators that seek to restrict our rights must be fair for all. It is astounding to see that Asian New Zealanders are mentioned as suffering the most amount of "online hate speech" and that is the only time they are mentioned in the entire document. There are no attempts to discuss how the Asian community's disproportionate experiences should be dealt with by the regulator. The proposal is one that ignores the existence of migrant communities and affords protections to only one ethnicity. This proposal should be rejected due to the differentiation of rights to free speech based upon race.
- The establishment of a new industry regulator that is independent from Government, as proposed, allocates disproportionate authority to bureaucrats that will not be accountable and are not required to ensure that the free speech is protected for ALL.The proposal is poorly researched and presents no acceptable evidence that would justify the far reaching and idealistic restrictions on free speech. The recommendations are contrary to a liberal democracy and are disproportionately founded on the differentiation of rights based upon when our ancestors arrived in New Zealand. I oppose this proposal as a whole and I this proposal as a whole and reject the unequal treatment of New Zealanders before the law.