There are prohibitions in New Zealand legislation which provide punishment for those people who engage in criminal anti-social behaviour, such as a number of the offence provisions in the Summary Offences Act 1981 and the hate speech provisions in the Human Rights Act 1993.
Behaviour or speech of this sort may cause harm to people in terms of direct physical or psychological effects and because it is likely to stir up feelings of ill-will towards, or contempt against, the people who are subject to the behaviour or speech. There are, however, behaviours that while not sufficiently serious to justify legal punishment, are harmful to society and which reduce its cohesion and inclusion.
We use the term “harmful behaviour” as we are concerned about all behaviours that may cause harm to others – regardless of whether people can be prosecuted under the law. These harms can include individuals or groups of people feeling unsafe, insecure and lacking a sense of belonging as a result of racist remarks or being singled out in school or at work.
People often talk about extremist ideologies and behaviours as causing harm. When people talk about harm, they often discuss extremism. Extremism is often defined as a rigid and uncompromising belief system outside the norm of a society, which rejects democracy, the rule of law and human rights for all. These beliefs are generally religious or political.
Violent extremism is often understood as any violent actions committed to further extremist aims. It can include a spectrum of acts from vandalism and spontaneous violence to terrorism. Much of the effort to understand extremism has focused on violent extremism. This focus is understandable because of the harms that can be caused by violence. However, such violence is the “tip of the iceberg” of behaviour that can cause harm. There are a range of other behaviours that do not involve violence but cause harm to individuals, and which create fear and division within societies. These behaviours can be underpinned by extremist ideologies and are perpetrated by people with the intention of bringing about changes to the political, social and religious environment in line with their ideology.
There are good reasons to focus on a spectrum of harmful behaviours. These behaviours cause harm to the mental and physical health and wellbeing of those who are targeted. They also increase social division and intolerance.
As we discussed in Chapter 5: Views on the national security system and countering terrorism, in recent decades countries have complemented more traditional counter-terrorism activities with activities focused on countering extremism and violent extremism. At one end of the spectrum of activities to counter violent extremism are targeted interventions designed to support individuals who are showing signs of radicalisation. At the other end are activities that aim to prevent the emergence of violent extremism though building social cohesion – interventions focused on improving social outcomes, such as youth development, education and employment. While it is accepted that the efforts to build social cohesion contribute to countering violent extremism and terrorism, it is also generally accepted that these efforts should be pursued separately. Social cohesion has broader aims and is worthwhile in itself.
We discuss submissions on how to enhance diversity and build social cohesion in Chapter 8: What people told us about diversity and creating a more inclusive New Zealand.
Rise of right-wing extremism
Some submitters set out their understanding of the different types of extremism and provided examples of terrorist attacks that have been perpetrated by extremists around the world, including right‑wing and left-wing extremists as well as Islamist extremists. It was explained to us that right-wing extremism is complex, not easily defined and is not identical to white supremacy. We were told that there are non-white and non-Western forms of right-wing extremism, such as Hindu right-wing extremism.
Some submitters noted that the common features of right-wing extremism are supremacism and xenophobia, with generally nationalist causes. The focus of the extremism may be a single issue, such as anti-abortion, on which a person may hold extreme views and for which they may take violent action. They may, however, hold moderate views on other core extreme right-wing issues.
We heard that most contemporary right-wing extremism focuses on:
- transnational categories of whiteness and masculinity; or
- the perceived threats of Judaism, Islam, non-white migration, liberal capitalism and the left; or
- extreme right-wing conceptions of Western identity, values and ways of life, and white male power.
We were told that contemporary right-wing extremism is digital, mediated, networked, personalised, de-territorialised and decontextualized.
[Right-wing extremism] ideologies and narratives tend to centre on real or imagined antagonisms between racial, religious, or ethnic in-groups and out-groups. Relatedly, [right-wing extremism] ideologies tend to essentialise in-group and out-group identities and values, and represent internal and external forces of change to demographics, identity, or values as inherently degenerative. [Right-wing extremism] ideologies tend to be reactionary; they are nostalgic for an imaginary lost utopia of pure identity, social unity, and uncorrupted tradition.
– Community organisation
We were told that white supremacy is also complex. As a category of extremist social movements and networks it contains different segments, including neo-Nazis, racist skinheads, white power gangs and the alt-right. Core to the belief system of white supremacy are ideas of white dominance over people of other backgrounds, views that whites should not co-exist with non-whites and that white people are genetically superior and have a culture that is superior. Most white supremacists believe the white race is in danger of extinction due to a rising “flood” of non-whites and they see a need to preserve white supremacy.
One person provided us with statistics about racist violence and harassment from white supremacist groups in New Zealand, using available reports between 2005 and 2013, which show the following:
- One hundred and eight incidents of racist violence and harassment against more than 200 victims, from murders, firearms incidents, a bombing, assaults, vandalism of Jewish cemeteries and synagogues and masajid, arson of a synagogue, setting dogs on Asians and driving new immigrant citizens from their homes and in some cases to leave the country.
- The targets were Asian (37 percent), Muslim (28 percent), Indian (14 percent), Jews (6 percent), Māori (5 percent), Pasifika (4 percent) and other non-white immigrants (4 percent).
- Fifty-two percent of incidents were in the South Island (where 23 percent of the New Zealand population reside) and 48 percent were in the North Island (with 77 percent of the population).
- Incidents by city were Christchurch (24 percent), Nelson (12 percent), Wellington and the Hutt Valley (11 percent), Auckland (10 percent), Invercargill and Dunedin (6 percent each). The higher rate of incidents in Christchurch (population 400,000) compared to Auckland (population 1.4 million) reflects the demographic differential that Christchurch was 86.9 percent European and Auckland 59.3 percent European.
This submitter believed an important factor in these incidents is the more than 60,000 immigrants entering New Zealand per annum.
This creates flashpoints within our communities where white supremacists’ entities and anti‑migrant sentiment exists and feel their sovereignty is at risk and as a way to act out against the government policy; is to conduct aggressive and sometimes overt methods of intimidation and create angst amongst ethnic minorities.
– Security and safety risk management specialist
One submitter believed there has been an increase in the white supremacist and fascist movements in New Zealand, and the rhetoric of certain local and world leaders has empowered and emboldened them in their activities. We also heard that white supremacist groups appear to have become more organised and hierarchical.
Another submitter discussed how the rise of sympathetic online communities is enabling people to work through all of the stages of the terrorism cycle – from radicalisation to logistics and post-operation propaganda, to the point where “web-enabled” lone actor terrorists can be described as “broadband terrorism”. The extreme right-wing is able to use messaging that has mixed or ambiguous meaning to exploit the ignorance of a wider audience and escape critical notice, or to offer plausible deniability if such notice is drawn. This is further complicated by a culture of provocation in online communities such as 8chan (a website composed of user-created message boards).
According to this submitter, on those websites people can use sarcasm as a cover to allow even more blatant racism and symbology to be claimed as a joke.
The use of radical language can, in and of itself, become a trigger. Words and actions are attractively magnetic and the gap between the two can narrow to nothing.
– Member of the public
We heard from a few submitters about their concern that young men in particular appear to be those radicalised into committing violent acts, encouraged by online communities that use propaganda and memes (an image or video intended to be humorous or pointed), and which co-opt other issues such as men’s rights, “involuntary celibate” hate groups and other expressions of male vulnerability.
[W]hy is it that these mass shooters are predominantly young men? One reason is that these killers often feel profoundly powerless. They have low self-esteem and grossly mismanage their intensified rage. The anger becomes more insidious over time until it becomes massively destructive. So the mass murderer goes on a vengeful rampage to restore his fragile ego by seeking recognition, attention and/or infamy.
– Member of the public
Role of social media and other online communities
A few submitters shared their concerns about the impact of playing violent games on a person’s state of mind. One submitter believed that violent virtual reality games are too real and that people start acting the way that the characters do. Another submitter believed there should be tighter controls on posting and accessing social media in respect of violent images. There could also be education in schools about hateful online environments and ideas.
It beggars belief that as a community we allow ready access to extremely violent images that take away basic human rights for all victims for the gratification of a few.
– Member of the public
One submitter discussed the inadvertent support that major organisations, particularly social media networks and media platforms can give to terrorism through, for example, enabling terrorists to spread their messages on these platforms.
The 4chan environment is best described as a 24/7 far right motivational rally that frequently produces horrific violence.
– Licensed firearms owner
One submitter was particularly concerned about the radicalisation of teenage males, which they believed is being fuelled by online material. The submitter felt that recently some young men have been expressing more extremist views in speech and writing.
The pattern appears to begin with remarks on women and feminism that view equality as having been achieved and modern feminism as mainly anti-male. From here they segue into negative attitudes around gender and trans issues, and finally towards the promotion of pro‑white cultural arguments.
– Member of the public
Hate crime and hate speech
One submitter voiced their concerns about reports they have heard that Muslim community leaders communicated their communities’ fears and instances of hate crimes and discrimination to multiple Public sector agencies over a period of several years, with very little meaningful response from these agencies.
I cannot begin to explain the feeling of consoling someone who is telling you that their grief could have been prevented.
– International non-profit organisation
We heard from many submitters of their concerns about attacks on people based on their race, religion, gender identity, disability and sexual orientation. These attacks vary from verbal to physical in nature. They said that reports of such attacks are not taken seriously by Public sector agencies and there is no monitoring or register of hate crimes. Submitters believed this to be a major issue. There has not been any concrete data available for Public sector agencies to acknowledge these hate crimes and to develop programmes to prevent or counter such crimes.
The events of the day were presaged by so many tell-tale signs of its coming, all of which were evident, and all of which were ignored by those who had the power to act.
– Victims’ and families’ representative
Some submitters believed that people should be able to hold positions on issues that are unpopular or that contradict majority public opinion.
[There is] a clear line between the freedom to openly and publicly discuss, defend, and teach different positions on moral and social issues and theological matters, and professing hatred and inciting violence. While the former are necessary for the maintenance and progress of a free and democratic society, the latter are destructive for a free and democratic society.
– Community organisation
It is possible to identify and justify the lower limit of permissible speech in a free and democratic society. The line is drawn at speech that is intended to be harmful or to incite harm (physical or psychological), or to propagate hatred.
– Community organisation
Some submitters believed there should be clear legislative guidelines to enable action against hate speech, incitements to violence and acts of terrorism. New Zealanders should have the right to privacy, but also be able to report hate crimes.
The intent of anti-hate speech laws, one submitter felt, is to ensure those who spread hate speech can be prosecuted and dealt with in a proactive manner before they decide to act on their hate.
A few submitters were concerned about silencing New Zealanders’ views, particularly those they do not believe are extreme. They cited several examples of this, such as banning representatives of the conservative sector from speaking at public venues in Auckland.
If we are sincere in wanting to do everything possible in preventing this from ever happening again we need to listen to all New Zealanders. Not silence them. By not listening, we don’t get to find out what the real issues are. We sweep them under the carpet in the hope that they’ll just go away. In reality they just fester and those without a voice become increasingly frustrated.
– Member of the public
One submitter explained an example of the stark difference between right-wing ideology and politically motivated right-wing extremism. They noted that right-wing extremist ideologists represent a group of individuals voicing their opinion while extremists seek to either entice hatred amongst the population and/or act on this hatred in the form of politically motivated violence. The submitter encouraged a broad-spectrum approach to deal with these crimes in a proportionate manner, while preserving freedom of speech.
Attempts to suppress their speech and their viewpoints are most likely to reinforce their sense of grievance and produce the opposite intended effect. Suppression can confirm their narrative that they are a persecuted minority in their own country, and make them more extreme and more determined to be heard. In other words, countering violent extremism has to explore ways of promoting dialogue and political participation so that people feel heard and have serious debate – even if their views are extreme.
A few submitters believed the way we handle hate speech is very important because in New Zealand we have free speech. They believed that restricting and further criminalising hate speech is the wrong thing to do, because this would drive people underground to be more secretive and to use the dark web. The submitter believed it is better to hear such people in public and to monitor speech for any action needed.
We would argue that while there may be other socially-desirable reasons for suppressing these activities, there is no empirical evidence that attempts to suppress such speech has any material effect on the subsequent number of terrorist attacks. Moreover, it may increase the risk of deeper involvement in violent extremism by driving such individuals and viewpoints underground where they remain immune to the potentially moderating influence of challenge and debate. Certainly, the continued attempts by authorities in numerous countries to suppress terrorist material, including the [United Kingdom], has not had any noticeable effect on the actual number of terrorist attacks.
Some submitters believed that it is wrong for government to attempt to limit freedom of speech, because it would create more radicalisation. The submitter also believed that hiding writings, manifestos, documents and evidence from these people only makes them more valuable tools for propaganda.
Bad ideas must have the light of day and be seen for what they are. Only violence or threats of violence are to be a matter for the law. People’s opinions about religions, race, political persuasion etc. are to remain free speech.
– Member of the public
Terrorism only works if we are scared. Acts of terrorism are designed to scare and to make us change our ways and remove our freedoms and rights. If we do this, terrorists win.
– Licensed firearms owner
A few submitters consider that recording aggravating factors in the commission of a current crime may be of benefit, but the creation of legislation to proscribe “hate speech”, lowering the current legislative thresholds, will undermine the human right to free expression. Further, the submitters argue there is no evidence that any “hate speech” laws have reduced racism or discrimination where they have been implemented.
Many submitters told us that the number of complaints, prosecutions and convictions relating to hate motivated crime is not systematically recorded in New Zealand, and any data that is available is only available in an ad hoc way from localised studies and media reports or from communities’ own recording of incidents.
One submitter stated that offences that may be treated as hate crimes are generally not recorded as hate crimes by New Zealand Police. Offenders usually receive disorderly conduct or assault charges. This makes it hard to assess the scale of the problem and to put in place adequate tools to address it. They told us that race-related acts and racism may be treated as aggravating factors at crime sentencing. They believed this approach was demoralising.
Without the ability to record hate crime, how can communities meet the data threshold that government requires to prepare relevant policy?
– Community organisation
One submitter believed that non-recording of incidents by Public sector agencies is contrary to the multiple prompts and requests that New Zealand has had from domestic and international human rights bodies – such as the Human Rights Commission, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Universal Periodic Review working group of the Human Rights Committee – to update its hate crime recording mechanisms, definitions and practices.
A few submitters believed that when racist behaviour is reported to Public sector agencies and is poorly managed and not dealt with, it gives rise to the continued advancement of racial torment and behaviour. When any group or individual are able to instil fear into parts of society without being stopped, this begins to gather momentum and gets out of hand. An example is the case where the delivery of pigs’ heads and threatening behaviour towards Muslim individuals had gone unchallenged. The submitters stated there is no excuse to allow racial tension to gain any traction whatsoever.
Solutions proposed by submitters
Strategies to counter harmful extremism
Some submitters believed that a counter-narrative to harmful extremism, in whatever form, was required. A submitter told us they believed that the government or community are too often “silent on their messaging”, which causes confusion and doubt. They feel there needs to be strong messaging condemning any violent acts and readily available information to support communities in identifying and dealing with disaffected members who are engaging in or have engaged in extremism or violent extremism.
As part of a new narrative, one submitter believed that officials and politicians need to normalise the politics of migration, taking it away from discussions on border security that frame Muslim and non‑white migration as a threat to Western identity and values. They believed that focusing on the security aspects of migration can support extreme views that include non-white “invasion”, which creates an enabling environment for audiences to be receptive to extreme right-wing narratives.
Some submitters discussed the need for a strategy to prevent or counter extremism, believing that no action has been taken in New Zealand in these areas, unlike actions by the governments of some other countries.
A few submitters reported that the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet ignored Muslim, ethnic and religious communities and umbrella organisations seeking the development of a holistic countering extremism strategy that did not just focus on violent Islamist extremist groups. The submitters reported that there was no response to this request. They believe that action is needed at a national level to protect Muslim communities.
The strategy would be developed collaboratively by all relevant Public sector agencies, communities, non-government organisations, business and local government. There is no simple solution to preventing and countering extremism and multi-disciplinary teams would need to work together to develop solutions for all New Zealanders.
A submitter requested that the government co-design with communities, non-government organisations, business, local government and experts. It would involve a whole‑of‑New Zealand approach to preventing extremism, focused on prevention and strengthening the resilience and connection of vulnerable groups with the wider community. This approach should concentrate on people and working with the community towards a goal of self-empowerment. The submitter suggested that such an approach should move from countering to preventing extremism, and from surveillance to promoting integration. A few submitters discussed the United Kingdom’s Prevent strategy, in which individuals may be referred to police if someone thinks that they may be vulnerable to radicalisation.
Not only does this approach create large numbers of false positives and inhibit civil liberties, but it can have the precise opposite effect in that it can isolate individuals, reduce their trust in the authorities, and convince them of an antagonistic relationship between them and the State.
A few submitters talked about the promotion of a harm prevention agenda where racist hatred and harm are addressed publicly, with a united voice of all those agencies and organisations that have received reports of racist incidents or have witnessed such incidents happening within the delivery of their services. This agenda would involve partnering with the media to make reports of racist incidents public.
Another submitter supported prevention approaches. They believed it is impossible to predict who might engage in violence from so-called signs of radicalisation. The submitter also considered that the radicalisation literature does not demonstrate a causal relationship between holding an ideology and choosing to use violence. Instead, they said that prevention approaches should focus on dialogue, social cohesion, community resilience, anti-racism and non-violence. This submitter believed that efforts should be made to divert individuals or draw them out of extremist movements, which should be prioritised over punishment and suppression.
A few submitters stated that Public sector agencies, private research organisations and academia, possibly through a combined research unit, should develop research projects on how people get caught in extreme right-wing and white supremacist ideology and activities, and on effective means of de‑radicalisation.
Some submitters suggested government funding of social workers and counsellors to work with those who are susceptible to extremism. These social workers and counsellors could provide such people with healthy pathways away from holding oppressive attitudes. These submitters believed this is particularly important for members of “white working classes”, some of whom have felt increasingly disillusioned and disenfranchised and have responded by attacking ethnic and religious communities.
A few submitters discussed broader social reforms aimed at reducing wealth inequality and ensuring employment opportunities. These reforms could play a role in countering the appeal of violent extremism, as many of the individuals involved in such groups that promote violent extremism come from socially and economically deprived backgrounds. One submitter suggested a plan of action to develop equal employment opportunity initiatives for people from ethnic communities.
Muslim youth find it difficult to obtain employment. That impacts their sense of belonging and their economic status. These factors influence radicalisation. In the Canadian Committee study witnesses asked for tools that would promote equity and inclusion. They also sought mandatory pay equity for race and religion.
– Community organisation
Other work that could be undertaken is for the government to provide strong, clear leadership centred on tolerance. The government along with community organisations could implement social programmes aimed at promoting a sense of identity and self-worth in youth. The programmes would be designed to reduce the sense of marginalisation felt by some people. They would also ensure the provision of a well-rounded education. The government should work with public organisations to promote community engagement, anti-terrorist messages and any backlash against support for would-be terrorists.
A few submitters suggested that having a New Zealand Police officer that was known to the community and understood its concerns is beneficial and that there should be more New Zealand Police liaison officers.
One submitter told us that young men need to be taught the right virtues and tolerant behaviours in a changing society. To do this, a ministry needs to be created to target men. Without this, they do not believe that anything will change.
[A ministry for] just men, their issues, to pursue better outcomes for men, promote better role models, provide strategy, advocacy and policy advice into issues affecting boys [and teenagers], ultimately looking to grow a better crop of boys and young men for the next generation. Men are failing so we need a new response, otherwise the next shooter is likely to be in the pipeline somewhere angry and simmering, seeking infamy.
Member of the public
A few submitters proposed that ongoing government financial assistance is required to improve security at ethnic and religious facilities across the country. One submitter told us that an armed, uniformed, Police presence at religious services and cultural events makes communities feel safe. A few submitters supported this initiative but did not want Police to be armed.
Addressing harmful behaviour online
A few people recommended that the social media posts of racist and extreme groups be monitored, stating that tackling online communities where this discussion is fostered is paramount.
We heard that identifying, monitoring and disrupting online social media forums and links is likely to reduce membership in, and support for, white supremacist groups, especially those that promote violence and terrorism.
Some submitters believed that the government should work with social media platforms to remove online space for terrorism, and with news groups to disrupt the spread of terrorist ideology. This action could prevent the inspiration of further terrorist attacks in support or retaliation. It could also help to reveal terrorism as a failed strategy and a “waste of life”. Further, agencies could enter into online debates to reach individuals. Agencies could identify what is unreasonable, unjust or unattainable, challenge viewpoints and create a counterpoint to terrorist ideology.
One person suggested the establishment of a third-party organisation owned by the government to work with media networks to regulate the material posted by the public. This organisation would look through online comments and remove hateful material, and catalogue it in a data cloud for the record. While this organisation could only ethically search through public posts, the submitter believed it would be harder for extreme groups to expand their recruitment process through public message boards if most public spaces are monitored for hate. Alerts could be sent to relevant agencies, both in New Zealand and overseas, if required.
We heard that the online posts of identified racist and extremist group members could be monitored for:
- the use of red-flagged language, memes or symbols;
- language formatting that matches manifestos;
- references to other objectionable publications;
- possible trigger events; and
- multiple violence-oriented posts from a single user.
One submitter told us that a company based in the United Kingdom uses specialist tools to divert users of online hate rhetoric to positive messaging. The company refers these users to counselling, social services support and other help. The company works with non-governmental organisations and groups trained in this space. The submitter suggested this be used for those who have a problem with inclusion.
Another person suggested an approach similar to one used in the United States of America. This would include developing a website about people who have learned how to help others leave hate groups. Social media sites could direct people to this website when they search for white supremacist content. They also suggested using people who have monitored extremist groups as commentators and to develop curriculum that could provide a programme of education. Such a programme could also draw on the insights of psychologists about the triggers for violence, anger and hostility.
One submitter believed that schools should not respond punitively to young men expressing extremist views in speech and writing. The acts could instead be used as a learning experience. The submitter considered that agencies should be clear about whether students can submit extremist views as part of assessed material. Teaching materials and advice should be developed and distributed for schools to use in combatting such extremist ideas.
Discussions of democracy, feminism, masculinity, religion are absolutely allowable and necessary, but they need to informed and critical. We avoid confronting this hate speech at our peril. I wonder as well if schools do become aware of young men with such extreme views when d they have responsibility to alert authorities. That I understand is a challenging question.
– Member of the public
Addressing hate speech and hate crime
One submitter stated that they agree with the Human Rights Commission’s view that there is a need to review the adequacy of current legislation in addressing and sanctioning hate speech and incitement to racial disharmony. This would include hateful and disharmonious speech targeted at the religion and beliefs of ethnic minority communities.4
Some submitters recommended that the Human Rights Act 1993 be extended to include protection on the basis of religion. They further recommended that the experience of the target group against which the words are directed be considered as part of assessing the impact of hate speech. One submitter believed that establishing hate crimes as a separate category of offence should include acts of hatred that target people and property. They believed religious symbols of identity (including halal and kosher) should be legally protected against hate attacks.
Further, submitters suggested the Human Rights Act 1993 be updated to make it explicit that social media and the internet can be ways of disseminating hate speech, and media companies should be required to outline how they define hate speech and enforce rules against it.
A few submitters talked about the Rabat Plan of Action, the outcome of a four-year initiative by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to clarify the scope of state obligations under Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, prohibiting incitement to violence, hostility and discrimination. The Rabat Plan of Action states that where expression incites hatred it must be criminalised. The Plan distinguishes between three types of expression:
- expression that constitutes a criminal offence;
- expression that is not criminally punishable, but may justify a civil suit or administrative sanction; and
- expression that does not give rise to criminal, civil or administrative sanctions, but still raises concern in terms of tolerance, civility and respect for the rights of others.
New Zealand has enacted legislation in respect of the first two types of expression through the Human Rights Act 1993. Some submitters told us that the third type of expression requires broader policy measures. Submitters believe the government should adopt all of the following steps to address speech that infringes the rights of others and creates disharmony:
- enhance engagement in broad efforts to combat negative stereotypes of and discrimination against individuals and communities on the basis of nationality, ethnicity and race;
- promote intercultural understanding, including “gender sensitivity”;
- promote and provide teacher training on human rights values and principles and introduce or strengthen intercultural understanding as part of the school curriculum;
- build capacity to “train and sensitise intelligence and security forces and police” concerning the prohibition of incitement to hatred;
- enhance the function in national human rights institutions to foster social dialogue and accept complaints of incitement to hatred;
- ensure the systematic collection of data in relation to incitement to hatred offences; and
- have a public policy and regulatory framework to promote pluralism and diversity of the media with non-discrimination and universal access to it as a means of communication.
One submitter referred to a report which recommends a regulator is established for online material, similar to the Broadcasting Standards Authority or the chief censor. Another submitter elaborated further, stating it should be an independent regulatory body for social media companies.
[The body would be subject] to a statutory duty of care to ensure the reasonable safety of their users, and that they take reasonable measures, including technological means, to prevent, or reduce the risk of, users harming themselves or others.
– Community organisation
Data on hate speech and hate crime must, according to many submitters, be collected and disaggregated so that it can be analysed and documented into categories such as race, gender and religion. Some submitters suggested that the data collected could be used by other Public sector agencies, such as New Zealand Police for the firearms licence application process. New Zealand Police could check applications for licences and renewals against these records.
One submitter suggested that setting up a Public sector agency to deal with hate crime issues would be a sensible option. Another submitter sets out steps for the reporting, collation and analysis of complaints of hate speech and hate crimes as follows:
- it must be user friendly and reporting must be able to be done from a home computer as well as in a New Zealand Police station or via phone to New Zealand Police;
- New Zealand Police must follow the matter up where the person asks it to be followed up;
- the system and New Zealand Police must collect data on the ethnicity of persons who are victims and – where it is able to be identified – the ethnicity of perpetrators;
- New Zealand Police must start from the assumption that the complaint is true and be resourced to do this work properly;
- the reporting system should be linked into security and intelligence agencies’ databases to enable monitoring of those perpetrating hate speech and hate crimes; and
- the reporting system should also enable anonymous reporting of hate crimes and hate speech directed at persons.
We heard from a submitter that a national hate crime action plan should be established. This could look to countries such as the United Kingdom for models and best practice. Created through engagement with minority communities, a national hate crime action plan would ensure effective monitoring, mapping and measurement of racial and religious hate incidents and attacks. Incidents warranting further action would be reported to New Zealand Police, with victims adequately supported. Statistics and analysis would be regularly provided to the government, academia and media.
Some submitters thought that the collection of hate speech and hate crime data could have positive effects. The collection of such data could help to build confidence in the ability and willingness of the Public sector to protect the rights of targeted communities. This in turn may promote reporting of crimes to New Zealand Police by members of communities who may be at risk. This could help with more successful investigations and prosecutions.
Other solutions offered included whether groups inciting violence or using hateful language should be designated as a special category. This could allow greater surveillance of groups that do not meet the definition of terrorism, but whose actions go beyond being an organised crime group. New legislation could be applied to members of such organisations who display patches or hate symbols. Community organisations could be funded to research and run digital literacy programmes focusing on education and prevention of hate online.
4. New Zealand has legislation to make it unlawful to incite disharmony on the grounds of race, colour, ethnic or national origin. It also makes such incitement a criminal offence where intent is established. However, actions against Muslim people, for example, are not protected under sections 61 and 131 of the Human Rights Act 1993, as religious belief are not protected characteristics for the purpose of these sections.