The New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs has released a consultation document containing proposed changes to censorship procedures.
The proposals include the appointment of a chief regulator who will be empowered to decide whether online content – including social media posts – is “harmful.” To do so, he will be empowered to make up his own “guidelines” without the input of parliament. The proposals will also allow fines exceeding NZ$200,000 to be levied on those who don’t comply with his ideas.
What Exactly Will the Regulator’s Draconian Powers Replace?
- Well of course free speech – the right to speak your mind – will be off the table. In other words, the ordinary process of discourse will be muted by the fear of arbitrary punishment.
- This will supersede the NZ Bill of Rights, which was designed to guarantee our freedom of thought, conscience, expression, and religion.
- The proposals will compromise the right to remain innocent until proven guilty. In other words, a person we have never met in a remote bureaucratic office can pronounce us guilty and silence us, regardless of circumstances and truth. It will be the rule of little minds.
- It will replace the process of science and the gathering of evidence with the vagaries of uninformed opinion.
- It will remove our right to cross-examine any accusers.
- It will replace the rule of specific laws passed by an elected parliament after due discussion, which set out the limits to behaviour in writing, with the capricious decisions of an individual subject to all the usual individual failings including vulnerability to influence, money, power, and mistaken ideas.
- These are all principles which have underpinned our way of life for centuries. The proposed censorship threatens to take us back to the Middle Ages when you could find out whether the wise woman village herbalist was a witch or not by asking your local misogynist wizard.