The Harmful Digital Communications Act creates a new criminal offence for “causing harm by posting a digital communication”. The posting can include text messages sent to an individual or wider audiences where harmful communications are put on facebook or chat rooms.
There have been a number of prosecutions under the new legislation and what is clear is that Judge’s view any online behaviour of this sort as extremely serious and could easily result in a prison term.
The offence was originally intended for online revenge porn where pictures of ex-partners are posted on facebook. The legislation is drafted very widely and could extend to any other online bullying type behaviour so it pays to be extremely careful when posting online.
A Dunedin man who posted semi-naked photos of his ex-girlfriend and advertised her for $1 on a Facebook page with more than 77,000 members, has ruined her life, a court has heard.
Connor Valli (18) appeared before the Dunedin District Court on a charge under the Harmful Digital Communications Act following the Facebook post in June last year 2016.
Valli committed several other offences while on bail as well, which Judge Stephen Coyle said showed he could not abide by a community-based sentence. Valli was jailed for nine months.
The court heard the incident was preceded by a break up with the victim. He posted three images of the girl on the “Dirty South Car Club”. He advertised the victim as “for sale” for a dollar and tagged her by name.
That meant all her Facebook friends, which numbered more than 1000, could also see the photos. She was alerted by family members and the social media site removed the pictures as soon as they were alerted.
“He has ruined my life,” the teenage victim said in a statement. “She feels worthless and depressed and embarrassed to leave her home,” the Judge said.
“For her, your click of a button, which probably happened in an instant, has had devastating consequences on her.”
Valli opposed his photo being used in media reports but the judge said people who committed such offences deserved to be “named and shamed”.
Source: NZ HERALD, August 2017