A prominent constitutional lawyer and former ACT MP believes the 'Karen' insult "absolutely could" be used in beefed up hate speech law.
Stephen Franks, a spokesperson for the Free Speech Union and a founding director of Wellington law firm Franks Ogilvie, says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was wrong to say the 'Karen' insult couldn't result in prosecution.
"I think, absolutely it could," he told Newshub.
"It's obviously not one defined as having specific protection from discrimination in the current Human Rights Act, but these provisions are going to be moved to the Crimes Act and there are situations where it would move beyond just an insult and become intended to disparage and to achieve the objective of intimidating a group.
"The Prime Minister is either being deceptive, or at the very least naive, in even pretending to know how this law will be applied. It's too vague - no one can know."
The Government plans to include religious groups and rainbow communities in beefed up hate speech legislation, with a proposed new criminal offence in the Crimes Act for inciting hatred against groups, and a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
The proposal has been drawn up in response to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch terror attacks.
The Government decided not to include political opinion - which is protected under the Human Rights Act - in the proposed hate speech law changes, but Ardern is not ruling it out, if feedback from the consultation process shows support for it.
In Parliament earlier this week, Ardern pushed back against criticism that the proposals are too vague by making fun of Opposition leader Judith Collins' suggestion the 'Karen' insult could land you in prison - an exchange that has since gone global.
The name 'Karen' is often used to describe white middle-aged women who become confrontational when they do not get their way.
"I disagree with the member's statement on Twitter that somehow it will become illegal to call someone a 'Karen'," Ardern said. "That is absolutely incorrect, and I apologise that means these laws will not protect the member from such a claim."
But that's not the case, according to Franks.
"It's not just that she could be wrong, she is wrong; there's no way she can say that the law they intend could not be used by the police or by someone else against someone who's throwing around casual insults."
Ardern has conceded that the threshold could be much lower than inciting violence - like insulting someone. She said there were a "range of factors" and that incitement of violence was one of them.
Franks said there were too many implications with terms like 'stirring up' and 'normalisation' of hatred being used in the law that could lead to a criminal offence.
"I don't think anyone knows where that's going to stop," he said. "Essentially what they're proposing to do is turn slogans into legislation and slogans always have problems with oversimplification. They can mean what people want them to mean."
Franks said it's important not to give the state power to prosecute over speech that could be interpreted in different ways.
"Of course it can hurt. We've steered away from it because they're powers that are so easily abused," he said. "We don't want to give the police and other authorities the powers to enforce their own prejudices and to suppress groups they don't like."
Collins says Ardern appears to not fully understand the proposals.
"This Government has shown that they do not understand these proposals and that they are not willing to do the homework to do so. Otherwise they wouldn't keep turning up to Parliament and media interviews only to prove themselves clueless again," she told Newshub.
"New Zealanders are actually worried about this. Labour needs to focus on getting their heads around the proposals instead of workshopping jokes to use in Parliament."
Ardern has argued the Royal Commission's recommendations cannot just be ignored, particularly given the significance of the terror attack on the Muslim community.
"Our existing laws, which have been around for 50 years, do not include reference to religious organisations or those with religious beliefs, and does not provide them the coverage that our current hate speech laws do. So these proposals intend to extend that," she said in Parliament.
Ardern also believes freedom of speech will be protected.
"In the view of the Royal Commission, the use of the word 'hatred' and the need to incite that hatred sets a very high threshold, and therefore protects New Zealanders' expectation around freedom of expression."