About this study

This assessment of New Zealanders’ Internet freedom aims to assist human rights monitoring and accountability in New Zealand by enabling an assessment of how New Zealanders experience and perceive their human rights when using the Internet. Our objective is to develop and test a new tool with which the local Internet community can broadly measure (and debate) the current state of their Internet freedom in New Zealand. While this initial report focuses on freedom of expression, we hope to assess other rights and freedoms as our work develops.

Among the Internet community1 the term “Internet freedom” is often used to describe the free flow of data packets across computer networks and the technical protocols which establish the agreed policies and practices by which that flow of data is enabled.”2 In this draft report, “Internet freedom” refers to the freedom of people to exercise and enjoy their “human rights” when using the Internet. This report is structured on the framework developed by Frank La Rue (“the La Rue Framework”)3 and General Comment 34 on Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).4

The main issues in this assessment relate to internet filtering, criminalisation of legitimate expression, imposition of Internet intermediary liability, using disconnection from the Internet as a penalty, cyber attacks, online privacy, and Internet access. A unique feature is a new summary of access to legal information and the framing of this in relation to freedom of expression, based on original research by Judge Harvey. It is important to note that this research period closed at 31 March 2013. Significant proposals for new laws affecting Internet Freedom were proposed soon afterwards and have not been included in this report, but should be assessed in future research.

We conclude that out of 29 indicators in the La Rue Framework, New Zealand complies with 14, does not comply with 4, and there are 11 where compliance is unclear. These results surprised us. We had anticipated that New Zealand, with a high rating for freedom of expression offline5, would also meet these standards online. Yet New Zealand fails to meet just over half of these indicators. More research is needed to understand this and to assess how our findings, which are only preliminary and need more work, reflect on Internet freedom and the prospects for an open and uncapturable Internet.

Methodology

The objectives of this research were to:

  • Stimulate and support awareness of the importance of an open and uncapturable Internet
  • Document and promote Internet freedom in New Zealand
  • Monitor uptake of the Special Rapporteur’s work on freedom of expression and the Internet
  • Document the NZ public’s views on internet freedom/other rights issues and explore the public legitimacy of a proposed set of internet rights.

The project group was: District Court Judge David Harvey, Professor Charles Crothers (Auckland University of Technology), Dr Judy McGregor (Human Rights Commission), Joy Liddicoat, Shawna Finnegan (both from the Association for Progressive Communications). The group met on several occasions, developed a project wiki freedomindex.apc.org carried out preliminary data collection and a literature review. Judge Harvey developed research on access to legal information. A draft checklist was developed and shared with international networks including the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Frank La Rue, and the APC network in Latin America and South Africa.

In addition to the La Rue Framework, a key part of this research was a survey on the views of New Zealanders on Internet access and human rights. The results of this survey have been published separately. Preliminary results from both parts of the research were presented at Net Hui in July 2013 by Joy Liddicoat and Professor Crothers and subsequent summary reports developed by them shortly afterwards. We are very grateful for the support of InternetNZ which enabled this research through a community funding grant.

Assessment

We set out the most relevant aspects of the La Rue Framework followed by a brief narrative summary and comments about Internet freedom in New Zealand. We develop It in the pages that follow.


This report was written by Joy Liddicoat with assistance from Judge David Harvey, Shawna Finnegan and comments by Professor Dr Judy McGregor and Professor Charles Crothers. We were grateful to APC staff Alexandra Groom and Sarah Escandor-Tomas for their assistance with the project wiki.

1 The Internet is, by definition, a community: Request for Comment 3233, which defines the Internet Engineering TaskForce (IETF).

2 Liddicoat and Doria “Human Rights and Internet Protocols: comparing processes and principle” (Association for Progressive Communications, December 2012).

3 Frank La Rue, Annual Report of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, 2011, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/17session/a.hrc.17.2...

4 http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/comments.htm Extracts also attached as appendix.

5 New Zealand Human Rights Commission, Human Rights in New Zealand 2010 (Wellington, New Zealand 2011), at page 40.

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