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NZTech Digital

Progress and potential – review highlights big tech performance in reducing online harm in NZ

A world-first initiative aimed at reducing the risk of harmful online content in New Zealand continues to gather momentum. 

NZTech Chief Executive Graeme Muller has today welcomed the first evaluation of the reporting required by the Aotearoa New Zealand Code of Practice for Online Safety and Harms (the Code) and announced the appointment of New Zealand’s former Chief Censor to the Code’s Oversight Committee. 

The Code commits signatories to a set of guiding principles and commitments that aim to mitigate the risks, reduce the prevalence and improve local understanding of harmful content in seven areas: 

  • child sexual exploitation and abuse
  • bullying or harassment
  • hate speech
  • incitement of violence
  • violent or graphic content
  • misinformation
  • disinformation 

Launched in 2022, the Code requires technology companies including Google (YouTube), Meta (Facebook and Instagram), TikTok, Twitch, and X (formally known as Twitter) to submit a baseline report on their processes and policies, as well as annual compliance reports, which are then independently reviewed. 

The first review has now been completed by AUT Associate Professor Dr Philippa Smith – a specialist in digital communications with a particular focus on critical analysis of media and the study of internet communications phenomena.

“This is another important step for the Code and Dr Smith’s report provides us with an opportunity to assess the progress tech companies have made following their 2022 baseline reports,” Mr Muller says. 

“The Independent Review recognises the complexity of the operating environment and highlights both progress made by each of the signatories, and areas where reporting – particularly reporting with a New Zealand-specific focus – could improve.

“NZTech, as the administrator of the Code, is proud to see that progress is being made and welcomes the recommendations to continue to improve the signatories’ platforms and help create a safer online environment for all New Zealanders,” Mr Muller says.

The report will now be used by the Code’s Oversight Committee to transparently hold tech companies to account for their online safety commitments that impact New Zealanders. 

Brent Carey, the Chief Executive of Netsafe which led the development of the Code, says the Code provides a unique framework whereby the public, industry and Government can work to strengthen the policies and processes that exist to combat online harm. 

“The release of the independent reviewer’s findings provides us with more opportunity to improve the online harm prevention settings for New Zealand – something that stands at the core of Netsafe’s work,” Mr Carey says. 

“I also encourage the public to read the signatories’ transparency reports and the independent review and for other tech companies – big and small – to sign up to the Code so we can keep Kiwis safe online.” 

New Zealand’s former Chief Censor, David Shanks, will also be welcomed onto the Oversight Committee this month, joining a diverse range of experts in the field. Mr Shanks served as Chief Censor from 2017 to 2022, including during the March 15 2019 terror attack, and will bring a vast understanding of the complexity of balancing censorship and freedom of speech in the fast changing digital world. 

The next step for the Code is to provide further opportunities for public input to ensure the framework keeps evolving and is fit-for-purpose to meet the needs of the local New Zealand environment.

Notes to editors: 

The Code’s aim is to ultimately help create a safer online experience for Kiwis by enabling industry to build cohesion and process improvements around addressing online safety and harm concerns. It includes a complaint mechanism, sanctions regime, reporting and independent review functions.

NZTech is the Administrator for the Code and is an NGO funded by over 1,000 member organisations working to create a safer, more equitable, sustainable and prosperous Aotearoa New Zealand underpinned by good technology.

David Shanks is a barrister and solicitor whose career spans both private and public sector senior roles. He has been the Chief Legal Officer for the largest government department in New Zealand, led major public inquiries, and also served as Director for a technology sector private company. 

Current Oversight Committee members are Māori communications and engagement expert Jason Ake, Netsafe Chief Executive Brent Carey, leading privacy lawyer Kathryn Dalziel, social enterprise consultant Nurain Janah and industry regulation leader Hiliary Souter. Industry representatives include Meta’s Public Policy Manager for New Zealand Nick McDonnell and NZTech’s Chief Executive Graeme Muller.

You can find out more about the Code here

For further comment or interview, please contact:
Graeme Muller, CEO NZTech.
Phone: 021 025 207 67

NZTech Digital