Human rights and freedom of expression
The importance of protecting both human rights and freedom of expression are discussed throughout the Safer Online Systems and Media Platforms (SOSMP) discussion document. This page highlights some of the comments and goals mentioned in the SOSMP relating to these two concepts.
Freedom of Expression in the SOSMP
The SOSMP states that freedom of expression “includes the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form” (p. 19). They also note that freedom of expression is protected both via international conventions and in New Zealand law. One of the stated goals of the SOSMP is to protect freedom of expression, so that “New Zealanders can continue to create and share content and access the content and services they value” (p. 77).
Under the current regulatory framework, only material defined as ‘objectionable’ by the Chief Censor is illegal to create, share, or possess. The SOSMP document notes that the threshold for something being considered ‘objectionable’ is “deliberately high, given the impact on freedom of expression and other important rights” (p. 51).
Because of the potential impacts on freedom of expression, the SOSMP recommends that those current high thresholds “at the extreme high end of harm” (p. 22) remain in place, and Government would only seek the removal of content that meets that high threshold (p. 52). More succinctly, the document says that freedom of expression “should be constrained only where, and to the extent, necessary to avoid greater harm to society” (p. 83).
Crucially, the SOSMP also states that DIA are “not proposing any changes to the types of material that are currently considered illegal in New Zealand” (p. 52, para. 90). In other words, all content and forms of expression that are currently legal under New Zealand law would remain legal.
Freedom of the press
A principle related to the freedom of expression is freedom of the press. The document notes freedom of the press is “important in holding Government and those who exercise public power to account. It also supports democracy by keeping the public informed on important issues” (p. 19). This view seems to be an impetus for one of the guiding principles of the SOSMP, which is that “freedom of the press should be protected” (p. 83).
Human rights in the SOSMP
One of the goals of the SOSMP is the protection of democratic values and human rights (p. 9). The SOSMP wants to ensure that the proposed regulatory framework should “support human rights and not detract from them” (p. 19).
That objective seems to inform another goal outlined in the SOSMP of ensuring that “freedom of expression is balanced with other human rights such as non-discrimination, security, and democratic rights, and that all people, from consumers to creators and publishers, have equitable opportunities and do not suffer unfair treatment” (p. 85).
In summary, the SOSMP discussion document suggests that a goal of this proposed regulatory framework is to protect freedom of expression by making platforms safe for everyone, which will, in turn, support democratic values and human rights.
Feedback questions concerning human rights and freedom of expression
The SOSMP document includes several questions the DIA would like public feedback on. The questions relating to human rights and freedom of expression are:
Question 18: Is the regulator the appropriate body to exercise takedown powers? (p. 56)
Question 19: Should takedown powers be extended to content that is illegal under other New Zealand laws? If so, how wide should this power be? (p. 56)
Question 20: If takedown powers are available for content that is illegal under other New Zealand laws, should an interim takedown be available in advance of a conviction, like an injunction? (p. 56)
Question 25: What do you think about how rights and press freedoms are upheld under the proposed framework? (p.70)
Decisions about these new regulations should be influenced by listening to communities most impacted by harmful content online. If you’d like to make a submission to the Department of Internal Affairs responding to the SOSMP discussion doc, check out our page, ‘Make a submission’.