Monday, March 10, 2014

Labour's "digital bill of rights" isn't

Over the weekend, Labour leader David Cunliffe announced plans for a "digital bill of rights", to protect access to the internet and outlaw warrentless surveillance. Which is good, but then there's this bit:

"It would also guarantee freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion, while still outlawing hate speech."

This sounds good - but its actually an erosion compared to what we have at present. Those freedoms, whether offline or on, are currently protected by the BORA. But hate speech isn't outlawed in practical terms (there is a crime of inciting racial disharmony, but there was only a single prosecution under the 1971 Act, and the consensus now is that the BORA has made it almost impossible to prosecute). So that "still" hides a massive crackdown on online expression. It may be expression we don't like, that we find hateful and offensive, but that doesn't justify outlawing it, any more than it justifies outlawing rickrolling. Which means the answer to Labour's proposal has to be "no thanks". Protect freedom of speech unambiguously according to BORA standards or piss off.

And so what should be a hands-down policy win for Labour turns into a mess, because they took a good idea and poisoned it, in the process alienating the very groups the policy was aimed at winning support from. Heckuva job you're doing there guys. Good luck with that election-thing.

(See also: InternetNZ)