Harmful digital communications
Intent of the Act
The Harmful Digital Communications Act (HDCA) aims to deter, prevent and lessen harmful digital communications.
Digital communications are any form of electronic message, including texts, emails, photos and recordings.
Harmful digital communications include cyber bullying and harassment, eg:
- sending or publishing threatening or offensive material
- spreading damaging rumours
- sending or publishing sensitive personal information, eg embarrassing photos and videos.
Harmful Digital Communications Act (HDCA)(external link) — Legislation.govt.nz
Your rights under the HDCA
The HDCA has 10 communication principles, which say a digital communication should not:
- disclose sensitive personal facts about a person
- be threatening, intimidating or menacing
- be grossly offensive
- be obscene or indecent
- be used to harass a person
- make a false allegation
- break confidences
- incite or encourage anyone to send a deliberately harmful message
- incite or encourage a person to harm themselves or commit suicide
- denigrate a person’s colour, race, ethnic or national origins, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability.
If you receive a digital communication that breaks any of these principles, you can complain to Netsafe. If they can't resolve your complaint, you can apply for court orders against the author or host of the communication. If you make a complaint or take court action, point out which principles have been broken.
The HDCA also makes it illegal to post a digital communication with the intention of causing serious emotional distress to someone else.
If things go wrong
Ask for harmful digital content to be removed
Make a complaint to the host of the online content. Most hosts provide a way for users to make complaints. Check also for any rules content authors must follow, eg community standards.
It helps if your complaint clearly identifies:
- your name, telephone number, physical address and email address
- specific content you want removed
- why you believe it is unlawful or breaches the communication principles, and has caused harm
- if you agree to your personal information being released to the content's author.
Make a complaint to Netsafe
The HDCA empowers Netsafe to investigate alleged breaches of the 10 principles and help find a resolution. If the person making the complaint isn't happy with the outcome, they can apply to the district court, eg for a takedown order, against the author or host of the allegedly harmful content.
Report and incident(external link) — Netsafe
Contact the Police
Contact the Police if the communication causes you serious emotional distress (eg an intimate image of you posted without your permission) is otherwise harassing, encourages suicide or threatens your safety.
Harmful Digital Communications Act FAQs(external link) — Office of the Privacy Commissioner