Joint statement with Tohatoha & InternetNZ on the Aotearoa Code of Practice for Online Safety and Harms

The Aotearoa New Zealand Code of Practice for Online Safety and Harms, which has been developed over the past year, was officially signed into effect today by Netsafe, NZTech, Meta (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp), Google (YouTube), Amazon (Twitch), Twitter and TikTok.

The following is a joint statement from Tohatoha NZ, InternetNZ and Inclusive Aotearoa Collective Tāhono in response to the release of this Code of Practice issued on Monday 25 July 2022. 

“This Code looks to us like a Meta-led effort to subvert a New Zealand institution so that they can claim legitimacy without having done the work to earn it.

In our view, this is a weak attempt to preempt regulation – in New Zealand and overseas – by promoting an industry-led model that avoids the real change and real accountability needed to protect communities, individuals and the health of our democracy, which is being subjected to enormous amounts of disinformation designed to increase hate and destroy social cohesion.

Any Code of Practice should begin by acknowledging the extreme power imbalance between users and the platforms. This Code and the process that led to it shows that those behind it have no awareness of this inequity and are not interested in rebalancing that power differential.

This Code talks a lot about transparency, but transparency without accountability is just window dressing. In our view, nothing in this Code enhances the accountability of the platforms or ensures that those who are harmed by their business models are made whole again or protected from future harms.

NZ Tech is a technology industry advocacy group that lacks the legitimacy and community accountability to administer a Code of Practice of this nature. They have no human rights expertise or experience leading community engagements. While we have no qualms with what they do, they are not impartial or focused on the needs of those who are harmed by these platforms.

NetSafe, as the Approved Administrator for the Harmful Digital Communications Act, should not be involved in creating industry codes of practice. This is a conflict of interest as it aligns them too closely with the companies impacted by the HDCA and increases the risk of regulatory capture. This Code is a distraction from their core work of administering the Act, which is crucially important. NetSafe’s focus should be on serving the New Zealand public and enhancing the safety of every New Zealander who uses the internet.

We badly need regulation of online content developed through a government led process. Only government has the legitimacy and resourcing needed to bring together the diverse voices needed to develop a regulatory framework that protects the rights of internet users, including freedom of expression and freedom from hate and harassment.

The Content Regulatory Review process is the right place for this work to happen and we look forward to engaging with that process, and any other processes that government announces in the future to create a more fair and just digital world.”

Mandy Henk, CEO, Tohatoha NZ
On behalf of Tohatoha NZ, Internet NZ and the Inclusive Aotearoa Collective Tāhono

Photo by Thomas Lefebvre on Unsplash