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Netsafe welcomes public feedback on draft of Code of Practice for Online Safety and Harms

By Sara Barker, Fri 3 Dec 2021

After months of work, Netsafe’s first draft Aotearoa New Zealand Code of Practice for Online Safety and Harms is now available for public feedback after months of work from the agency and partners, including Google, Meta, Microsoft, Twitter, TikTok and Twitch.

The Code, which has been in the works since the beginning of the year, aims to establish a self-regulatory framework to protect New Zealanders from online harm and harmful content.

Outgoing Netsafe CEO Martin Cocker says the Code makes Kiwis’ internet safety ‘of paramount importance’.

Netsafe online safety operations centre manager Sean Lyons adds that the Code protects privacy, freedom of expression, and political communications.

The agency believes that online platforms, such as those involved in the Code’s creation, are already addressing disinformation, misinformation and harmful content. However, the Code will also hold them to account.

The Code also paves the way forward for Te Rangapu Whakatutuki, an administrator with the power to sanction signatories if they do not uphold the Code. The administrator will also manage the Code’s evolution and review, ensuring that stakeholders are consulted.

Google New Zealand head of government affairs and public policy, Ross Young, says Google “works hard to protec users from harmful content”.

“We continue to invest in the policies and systems while also holding ourselves to the highest level of accountability and transparency. Our work here is ongoing and we will continue to refine and make investments while also consulting with Government, industry bodies and non-profits to ensure that our products and services offer a safe, secure and helpful experience for all Kiwis.”

Signatories must release reports of their efforts related to the Code. This will help understand misinformation, disinformation, and harmful content and contribute to future regulatory systems for online content.

Meta New Zealand and Pacific Islands head of public policy Nick McDonnell says it’s difficult to balance online freedom of expression with protecting people from harm.

“While we have strict policies against harmful content, we agree that more is needed to be done across the industry to ensure that we’re approaching online safety in a transparent way and being held to account. We’ve been consulting with Netsafe and the broader industry to ensure this Code both protects these freedoms while addressing the need to remove harmful online content.”

The Code is available from Netsafe’s website. Feedback on the Code closes on Wednesday, 2 February 2022.  Read the draft code here.

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