New Zealand has officially made cyber bullying criminal. New Zealand’s parliament passed the Harmful Digital Communications Bill last week, setting the ball rolling in dealing with online trolls. The bill seeks to fine or imprison anyone found to deliberately use harmful, threatening or offensive language. The new legislation implicitly prohibits the sending of messages to other users of the internet that are racist, sexist, critical of their religion, sexuality or disability.
To determine culpability, the communications sent out must have caused serious emotional distress to the intended individual. If a party is found guilty, they could face up to two years in jail. The bill further made incitement to suicide a separate crime, where guilty parties will face up to three years in jail for encouraging such acts. The Australian government will set up a digital agency with the mandate of policing the internet. Those found to have committed such offenses will have 48 hours to delete the offending messages. Failure to which, legal measures will commence. The agency will also deal with complaints from other users.
Kenya was set to pass a similar law in 2014 called the Cyber crime and Computer related Crimes Bill in Kenya or Cyber crime bill. An initiative of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP), the bill seeks to equip law enforcement agencies with the necessary legal and forensic tools to tackle cyber crime. The law proposed a five-year jail term for persons convicted of the use of threatening, abusive or insulting words to stir up ethnic hatred through a computer system or a fine not exceeding Kshs. 1 million.
Cyber bullying or trolling has been one of the negative effects of widespread usage of the internet. It has especially spread on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, who have themselves not been able to police the internet enough. Facebook recently published new guidelines aimed at tackling revenge porn, one of the many facets of cyber bullying.