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Internet Rights and Freedoms Bill

Gareth Hughes MP
Gareth Hughes MP
gareth [dot] hughes [at] parliament [dot] govt [dot] nz (Email)

Internet Rights and Freedoms Bill

The Internet Rights and Freedoms Bill is designed to protect human rights in the digital environment. The Bill promotes equitable and open access to the Internet for all New Zealanders, aiming to bridge the digital divide and support innovation, education and growth in New Zealand's ICT sector.

The Internet Rights and Principles Dynamic Coalition, hosted by the UN Internet Governance Forum, recognises that 'the full and universal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms requires the effective realization of these rights on the Internet.' The enactment of the Internet Rights and Freedoms Bill will protect and strengthen New Zealanders' fundamental Internet freedoms; fostering innovation, transparency, access to information and democratic engagement. The Bill recognises the importance of protecting the right to privacy, data security and freedom from surveillance in the online environment.

A pioneering element of the Bill is the establishment of an Internet Rights Commissioner. The primary function of the Commissioner will be to promote human rights protection in the digital environment. While supporting the work of the Human Rights Commission, the Internet Rights Commissioner will provide focused Internet rights advocacy.

The Commissioner will work within the framework of the Human Rights Commission to grow public awareness and engagement revolving around Internet freedom and advocate for safe, secure online communities in New Zealand. The Commissioner will be able to report to Cabinet on Bills before the House that conflict with the rights and freedoms in this Bill. The Commissioner will also be tasked with leading discussions and campaigns on behalf of the Human Rights Commission on issues affecting human rights in the New Zealand Internet ecosystem.

The Bill supports the establishment of a Chief Technology Officer for New Zealand. The CTO will have a range of functions and powers. These functions include: advising Parliament and Cabinet on the challenges and risks for New Zealand's digital ecosystem, promoting environmental sustainability in the ICT sector; developing best practice guidelines for ISPs, hosts and government agencies, developing strategies to bridge the digital divide and championing technological innovation and an open Internet for New Zealand.

The Internet is a multi-stakeholder space with no single point of control and where government, civil society, private sector and technical communities all have roles to play in its governance. The rights and freedoms in the Bill apply to both the state and private sectors as each have a responsibility to act ethically and in good faith towards Internet users.

The Bill recognises that not all rights are absolute, and can be subject to limitations - but it is crucial to recognise, promote and strengthen human rights in the online ecosystem.

The Internet Rights and Freedoms Bill is a 'living document' designed to grow and evolve through crowdsourcing and ongoing public consultation. The Bill proposes practical steps to promote Internet freedom in New Zealand through the establishment of the Internet Rights Commissioner and the Chief Technology Officer.

The Internet Rights and Freedoms Bill is a bill of two halves. It contains a series of foundation level rights and secondly a number of specific clauses flowing from them to address Internet freedom issues not adequately addressed in statute.

At its heart the Bill aims to spark an Internet freedom conversation in New Zealand, frame future laws and policies relating to the Internet and promote ongoing protection of human rights in New Zealand's digital ecosystem.

The Bill proposes 10 rights and freedoms for the Internet:

  1. The right to access
  2. Freedom from search, surveillance and interception
  3. Freedom of expression
  4. Freedom of association
  5. Right to privacy
  6. Right to encryption technology
  7. Right to anonymity
  8. Right to a safe and secure Internet
  9. Freedom of innovation
  10. Freedom from restriction
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