Hard call (but the right call) on hate speech

There has been understandable anger and frustration at the announcement that harm provisions in the Human Rights Act will only be extended to religious communities. However, New Zealand will be a better place if the aggrieved can be a little more patient.

Yes, the LGBT+ community, women, the disabled and other ‘targets’ have already waited a long time for the protection that is their fundamental right. I understand why they have launched a petition. Their hopes of legislative change had been boosted by recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Christchurch Mosque Attacks related to social cohesion, and by the Department of Internal Affairs’ Content Regulatory Review.

Those hopes were dimmed by Justice Minister Kiri Allen’s announcement, but not dashed. She also announced that the Law Commission has been asked to undertake “an independent and thorough first principles review of legal responses to hate-motivated offending, and of speech that expresses hostility towards, or contempt of, people who share a common characteristic” (the italics are mine).

One might question why the Law Commission is to do another review when the Department of Internal Affairs review is already canvassing overseas regulation of harmful material. I think that, while there will be overlap, the Law Commission will concentrate on the role of the legal system in achieving a balance of rights: Toleration versus free speech. Continue reading “Hard call (but the right call) on hate speech”

The tweet that could cook Twitter’s goose

Perversity being what it is, I think Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter could be the best thing that could happen to the Christchurch Call.

Remember the Christchurch Call, the international effort to curb online hate speech led by Jacinda Ardern after the mosque attacks? Do you recall the enthusiasm with which social media platforms joined international leaders to commit to a better tomorrow and Facebook, Twitter and Google collectively stating they were “resolute in our commitment to ensure we are doing all we can to fight the hatred and extremism that lead to terrorist violence”?

Last Thursday we had confirmation of what we already knew: The social media platforms were either inept or liars. The Washington-based Center for Countering Digital Hate produced a report showing the platforms had failed to act on Anti-Muslim hate 89 per cent of the time. We can only imagine their failure rate on other forms of hate speech, to say nothing of dangerous disinformation, although the centre has previously identified failures to deal with antisemitism, anti-black racism, misogyny, and anti-vax disinformation.

The centre, using the platforms’ own search tools, identified 530 anti-Muslim posts that had been viewed at least 25 million times and much of the abusive content was easily identifiable. Users were able to adopt hashtags that were overtly anti-Muslim. Posts supporting the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory that formed the basis of Christchurch terrorist Brenton Tarrant’s ‘manifesto’ continue to be carried on the platforms.

So how does Musk’s purchase of Twitter potentially help to rid the world of such poison? Continue reading “The tweet that could cook Twitter’s goose”

Multiple media reviews and the lefthand-righthand rule

When I look at my hands, I’m sure the left one knows what the right is doing. I hope the same can be said of the various New Zealand Government enquiries into a broad range of issues that impact on the media.

Each has its own course and involves different government agencies, with a total of four ministers at the helm.

Each enquiry is working diligently to address areas that have long needed overhaul. The Ministry of Justice’s proposed changes to laws relating to hate speech and discrimination arose out of the Christchurch Mosque attacks but the need predated those atrocities. The Department of Internal Affairs’ review of content regulation had a similar genesis and it, too, has long needed revision (not least over the issue of multiple mainstream media regulators). And work has been progressing on a new public service media entity and, separately, the reshaping of Māori media. Continue reading “Multiple media reviews and the lefthand-righthand rule”

Submission on proposals against incitement of hatred and discrimination in Aotearoa New Zealand

The following is a submission I made to the Ministry of Justice on 28 July 2021 relating to planned amendments to legislation for the control of hate speech.

My name is Gavin Peter Ellis. I am a media researcher and consultant. Formerly, I was editor-in-chief of the New Zealand Herald and a senior lecturer in politics and communications at the University of Auckland. I hold a Doctor of Philosophy degree in political studies. I am the author of two books and numerous articles on media. I am currently engaged (with a colleague from Melbourne University) in a study of media coverage of the Christchurch mosque attacks and subsequent prosecution. Our first paper can be accessed at https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1177083X.2019.1705358. I am a former chair of the Media Freedom Committee ( a forum of all mainstream New Zealand media) and was recipient of the Commonwealth Astor Award for services to press freedom. In 2015 I was inducted as an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to journalism.

I wish to make the following observations on proposals to amend legislation in relation to proposals against incitement and discrimination in Aotearoa New Zealand. Continue reading “Submission on proposals against incitement of hatred and discrimination in Aotearoa New Zealand”