NetSafe appointed as key agency for online harassment; information and support for victims

Thu 02 Jun 2016

NetSafe has been appointed as the Approved Agency under the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015. This gives NetSafe a statutory role in ...

NetSafe has been appointed as the Approved Agency under the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015.

This gives NetSafe a statutory role in preventing and addressing online harassment under the new civil enforcement regime.

Specifically, NetSafe's role will include: giving victims advice on how to resolve a problem; investigating and working to resolve complaints that have resulted in harm; providing online safety advice and educating the public; and collaborating with service providers and agencies to achieve the purpose of the legislation.

Justice Minister Amy Adams said "Once the Approved Agency is up and running, people can apply to the District Court for mandatory orders in relation to any complaints they have been unable to resolve through the Approved Agency." She also said "The court will be able to make a range of orders, including requiring material to be taken down. Failing to obey the court orders will be punishable as a criminal offence with a penalty of up to six months in prison or a $5,000 fine for individuals, and fines of up to $20,000 for companies."

Both the Privacy Commission and InternetNZ welcomed the appointment of NetSafe as the Approved Agency. Privacy Commissioner John Edwards said "I’d like to congratulate NetSafe for being appointed the independent body that will provide a quick and efficient way for victims to seek help from cyber-bullying, revenge porn and other harmful online behaviours."

Andrew Cushen, Deputy Chief Executive of InternetNZ, said, "We all recognise the harm that can occur online. The challenge with this legislation has always been in providing workable processes that mean that freedom of expression is not threatened, and that court-based remedies are rare." He also said "That's why this Approved Agency announcement is important - because it provides education, timely intervention and mediation-based processes that are essential to making this Harmful Digital Communications regime reasonable and workable."

It is expected that NetSafe will start work as the Approved Agency in November 2016.

The 2016 Budget included $16.4 million of new funding for the Harmful Digital Communications Act, including operating the Approved Agency.

Further information

Aotearoa New Zealand

NetSafe has produced the resource So you got naked online (2016), which offers information, guidance and practical steps to take to deal with problems associated with sexting, revenge porn and other harmful publication of images and video. It is designed for children, young people their families and whānau.

Netsafe also provides information about what to do if personally sensitive information or images have been shared without your permission.


Information about "revenge porn" or non-consensual pornography is available from the website End Revenge Porn (Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, USA), a hub where victims can get information, receive support from other victims and victim advocates (note that information about services and legal remedies are USA-specific - in New Zealand, contact NetSafe).

More international research and resources are available in the following NZFVC news stories:

Harmful Digital Communications Bill passes into legislation (July 2015)

Harmful Digital Communications Bill passes second reading (April 2015)

Background information

The Harmful Digital Communications Act, which came into effect in 2015, introduced measures to address damaging online communications, offer solutions to victims and provide sanctions to hold perpetrators accountable. Read more about the legislation in a previous Clearinghouse news story.

In recent months, media has discussed a number of cases and debates around sexually abusive behaviour by school aged young men, much of which has involved online abuse, including the so called "Roast Busters" group. For information on these including related research, resources, and media coverage, see the following previous Clearinghouse stories:

Sexual violence, social media, students and schools - court decision, IPCA statement, media (April 2016) 

Report on CYF involvement in 'Roast Busters' cases released (December 2015)

'Roast Busters': IPCA report criticises Police, responses to the report (March 2015)

No charges laid: Responses to the 'Roast Busters' decision (November 2014)

Updates on the 'Roast Busters' (May 2014)

Responses to the 'Roast Busters' (November 2013)

Related information

The Clearinghouse has also collated New Zealand and international research and resources to support people experiencing digital stalking.


Web abuse line gets 100 calls on first day, Radio NZ, 22.11.2016

Adams wishes Netsafe well for new HDC role, Press Release, NZ Government (Amy Adams), 21.11.2016

Netsafe Launches Service to Combat Cyberbullying, Press Release: Netsafe, Scoop, 17.11.2016

NetSafe appointed to cyberbullying role, Press Release: NZ Government (Amy Adams), 31.05.2016

Privacy Commissioner welcomes NetSafe as new HDCA agency, Press Release: Office of the Privacy Commissioner, Scoop, 31.05.2016

Approved Agency an important step in managing online harm, Press Release: Internet NZ, Scoop, 31.05.2016

Image: Pixabay