Welcome to this week’s Media Law Roundup, a summary of developing media law and policy news.
Justice Minister Judith Collins helped fast-track legislation in New Zealand that provides potential victims of online bullying or harassment more protection under the law. The law makes it illegal to use a communications device to cause harm; the maximum penalty for using an electronic device to harass, threaten, or otherwise cause harm is three months in jail and a $2,000 fine. Additionally, those convicted of inciting someone to commit suicide, either on or off-line, will now face a maximum of three years in prison, even if the victim does not attempt to commit suicide.
Britain has informed the European Union that it will attempt to opt-out of new European-wide Internet regulation known as “the right to be forgotten.” The right to be forgotten, article 17 of the Data Protection Regulation drafted by the EU’s justice commissioner, places more responsibility on social media companies, like Facebook, to manage personal data and information. The law could result in punitive fines of up to 2% of the company’s global turnover if they do not comply with requests to correct or delete a customer’s personal information from their website. The law would also require companies to inform all third parties who bought or obtained data from the original site about the requests.
Officials in the UK feel it may be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to truly remove information that has been posted and disseminated throughout the Internet. They argue that individuals may be mislead as to the amount of protection they would have under the regulation and that it is unrealistic to expect companies to be responsible for removing the data from third parties. Therefore, they are asking for separate regulations be drafted for the United Kingdom.
During a lecture at the University of Adelaide, Swedish Justice Stefan Lindskog talked at length about the Wikileaks case and raised questions about the legality of a potential US extradition of Julian Assange to face charges of conspiracy arising from Wikileaks obtaining secret US military and diplomatic reports. Julian Assange is currently living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden to face questioning about alleged sexual offenses, for fear that once in Sweden he could face extradition to the United States.
Justice Lindskog listed several reasons why extradition to the US would be unlikely, including the fact that the extradition treaty makes exceptions for crimes “military or political in nature.” Also, Assange’s leaks may have been legal under Swedish law as Swedish law protects those who leak information to the press.
This week, the Securities and Exchange Commission outlined new disclosure rules for companies that want to use social networks to disseminate information. In December, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings posted a message congratulating his team for surpassing one billion hours of video viewed in a single month. The federal agency was concerned that the post violated Regulation Fair Disclosure (Reg FD) which requires a company to publish information to all investors at the same time. After months of investigating, the SEC decided that companies could treat social media as a legitimate outlet for communication, like their website, as long as the corporations make clear which accounts will serve as the outlets.
On Wednesday the national assembly in Burundi passed a bill that obligates journalists, newspapers, and radio stations to pay fines from $2,000 to $6,000 for press offenses. The media law bans news about local currency, national defense, public safety and state security and may be used to force journalists to reveal their sources. Journalists within Burundi called the bill unconstitutional.
Although the National Assembly approved the bill, it must still be approved by the Senate before President Pierre Nkurunziza may sign it into law.