Blunt warning for nasty cyberbullies

Cyberbullies have been issued a blunt message from Justice Minister Judith Collins: ''Stop''.

Her warning comes as Judge Michael Crosbie notes the increasing use of internet and social media in cases of bullying or offensive or indecent behaviour.

''Offending via the internet or texting means that the moment the offending statement is made, or an offensive photograph is placed on social media sites, it is there for a much wider audience to see,'' he noted in a reserved judgement released this week.

''The relative simplicity of the offender's actions can be completely outweighed by the enormous impact on an unsuspecting victim.

''Whether the perpetrator's actions are deliberately defamatory, a schoolish prank or drunken misjudgement, the implications for the victim remain the same.''

Ms Collins said the Government was creating a new civil enforcement regime and an approved agency for complaints.

The new agency would be able to help people get the support they needed to stop cyberbullying quickly, including liaising with website hosts and internet service providers to request removal or moderation of offensive posts, she said.

The agency would be able to investigate and resolve complaints directly and be able to refer the most serious complaints to the District Court, which could issue take-down orders and cease-and-desist notices.

''Our new anti-cyberbullying proposals protect victims and hold perpetrators to account, sending a clear message to cyberbullies - their behaviour must stop,'' she said.

''We are putting the right support in place and modernising our outdated laws so victims of cyberbullying, particularly young people, no longer have to suffer.''

NetSafe executive director Martin Cocker said the public could expect more such cases as

''technology makes it possible and some people will exploit that opportunity''.

Phones were not good for storing sensitive information and people should always activate security features, he said.

A Bill concerning cyberbullying will be introduced to Parliament later this year.

hamish.mcneilly@odt.co.nz

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