Tighter Internet regulation predicted

Legislative reviews underway in New Zealand are signs that the ‘regulatory pendulum’ in New Zealand is swinging towards tighter regulation

A number of legislative reviews underway in New Zealand are signs that the ‘regulatory pendulum’ in New Zealand is swinging towards tighter regulation of online services, lawyers say.

Lawyers Philip Wood and Keri Johansson from Buddle Findlay, writing on the firm’s website, say overseas governments have begun flocking to introduce new regulation on online platforms in light of the huge power of the likes of Google and Facebook, and they detail three legislative reviews underway in New Zealand saying “early signs suggest that the regulatory pendulum is swinging in the same direction.”

Consultation on MBIE's issues paper on the Copyright Act 1994 has just closed. ISP liability and particularly the breadth of the definition of ‘ISP’ in the Act (which determines the breadth of the safe harbours) is one area under review.

“Submissions have also just closed on the DIA's proposals to standardise classification of video-on-demand content. Although user generated content is not likely to come within the review, overseas-based OTT-content providers like Netflix, Google TV and Amazon Prime are likely to be affected.

“Consultation has opened on a new 'digital services tax' on gross turnover of social media platforms, intermediation platforms, content sharing sites and search engines.”

They also predict more reviews in coming months, as officials and platforms work through how to implement the commitments made by the Government in the Christchurch Call to Action, issued following the Christchurch massacre.

In that call the Government committed to “Consider appropriate action to prevent the use of online services to disseminate terrorist and violent extremist content, including through … regulatory or policy measures consistent with a free, open and secure internet and international human rights law.”

They identified one of the Christchurch Call’s commitments, algorithmic transparency, as “a prime candidate for review,” saying: “..although [the Call] stops short of requiring the platforms to report on their algorithms (ie the formulae that help platforms determine what users are interested in, and thereby generate advertising revenue). It's clear that there is a tension between the platforms' commercial interest in keeping algorithms secret, and users' interest in understanding how data is being used to influence their behaviour.”

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