New Zealand lawmakers are proposing new legislation to criminalize cyber bullying and require schools to take action against digital tormentors. The Law Commission released a report on Harmful Digital Communications with many recommendations on how to stamp out the problem, linked to self-harm and suicides. The paper proposes a new electronic communications offense for those aged 14 and over. It also suggests the establishment of a Communications Tribunal as a “mini-harassment court”. This could enforce apologies, take-down and cease-and-desist orders and unmask anonymous offenders. However, it cannot impose criminal sanctions or compensation.

Law Commissioner Professor John Burrows said cyber bullying could derail lives. New technologies could have effects that were “more intrusive and pervasive, and thus more emotionally harmful than in the pre-digital era”. The report also recommends new legal requirements for all schools to help combat bullying. The National Administrative Guidelines should require schools to implement effective anti-bullying programs. Private schools should also be forced to comply.

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