Meta signs Aotearoa New Zealand Code of Practice for Online Safety and Harms

Nick McDonnell, Head of Public Policy, Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

 

Governments, academics, and others are debating how to hold internet platforms accountable, particularly in their efforts to keep people safe and protect fundamental rights like freedom of expression.

We believe that new frameworks for regulating harmful content can contribute to the internet’s continued success by articulating clear ways for government, companies, and civil society to share responsibilities and work together. As part of our commitment to working with the government and industry on new regulatory solutions, Meta is proud to be a signatory of the Aotearoa New Zealand Code of Practice for Online Safety and Harms launched by Netsafe, NZ Tech, and five technology companies on July 25, 2022.

The first-of-its-kind Code obligates tech company signatories to actively reduce harmful content in seven harm categories - child sexual exploitation and abuse, bullying and harassment, hate speech, incitement of violence, violent or graphic content, misinformation, and disinformation - on their relevant digital services in New Zealand. It outlines 45 commitments that companies must report against annually.

The Code is unique in that it:

  • Brings together multiple categories of online harmful content into one regime;
  • Will be governed by a multi-stakeholder Oversight Committee which will include Māori, community, industry, and hopefully Government representation;
  • Creates the ability for the Administrator to ‘sanction’ Signatories for non-compliance;
  • Establishes a complaints mechanism for members of the public, Government, or other groups;
  • Requires an independent review of all Signatory annual compliance reports;
  • Is iterative and can be amended after the first 12 months, or every 2 years thereafter (allowing for further localisation and stakeholder input).

Meta has long supported calls for regulation to address online harmful content and has been working collaboratively with industry, government, and safety organisations to advance the Code. This is an important step in the right direction. With a focus on harmful - not illegal content - it is not intended to replace or circumvent regulation but is intended to complement the government’s work on content regulation in the future.

Netsafe new CEO, Brent Carey, says the Code is a self-regulatory effort that has been designed with input from multiple stakeholder groups, and interest groups and will be monitored by a new multi-stakeholder governance group.

“Digital platforms kept everyone connected during Covid, but unfortunately there was a spike of more than 25% of harmful content reports. There are too many Kiwis being bullied, harassed, and abused online, which is why the industry has rallied together to protect users.”

Carey says cooperation between the five companies and various stakeholders has been essential in establishing an online safety framework for New Zealanders.

Graeme Muller, CEO of NZTech, New Zealand’s peak technology association which will be responsible for the administration of the Code said “This unique collaborative approach toward creating a better digital environment for all Kiwis is just the start and as more organisations join and sign up to the Code we will be in a much better place as a country to ensure our experience on the Internet is as safe as possible.”

The Code builds on solid online safety principles from New Zealand, Australia, and the EU, including bringing to New Zealand the same regime on mis and disinformation currently in operation in Australia.

The framework outlines the collective and voluntary commitments to safer online spaces. On top of being closely evaluated, each company will publish annual reports about their progress in adherence with the code, be held to account for breaches of their Code commitments, and take part in a public complaints mechanism.

At Meta, we’re looking forward to working with the stakeholders to ensure the Code sets in place a framework to keep Kiwis safe across multiple platforms by preventing, detecting, and responding to harmful online content. Combating online harmful content will take a whole of society effort and the Code is not intended as a total solution to this challenge. It is a genuine attempt by responsible industry players to increase safety outcomes in New Zealand, focusing on trust through transparency.

The Aotearoa New Zealand Code of Practice for Online Safety and Harms is available on the NZTech website here.

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