Facebook, Google, Twitter sign online safety code to protect New Zealanders

A family online
"There are too many Kiwis being bullied, harassed, and abused online." Photo credit: Getty Images

Some of the world's biggest technology companies have collaborated with Netsafe and NZ Tech on a joint agreement to improve online safety in Aotearoa.

Meta (Facebook and Instagram), Google (YouTube), TikTok, Amazon (Twitch) and Twitter have signed the Aotearoa New Zealand Code of Practice for Online Safety and Harms, which obligates them to actively reduce harmful content on their platforms.

Netsafe CEO Brent Carey said the Code was a self-regulatory effort that had been designed with input from civil society groups and other interest groups.

It will be monitored by a new multi-stakeholder governance group, Carey said.

"Digital platforms kept everyone connected during COVID-19, but unfortunately there was a spike of more than 25 percent of harmful content reports.

"There are too many Kiwis being bullied, harassed, and abused online, which is why the industry has rallied together to protect users."

NZTech, a group of independent technology associations from across the country. will take over the establishment and administration of the Code.

CEO Graeme Muller said the unique collaborative approach toward creating a better digital environment for all Kiwis was just the start.

"As more organisations join and sign up to the Code we will be in a much better place as a country to ensure our experience on the Internet is as safe as possible."

Carey said the framework outlines both the collective and voluntary commitments to safer online spaces.

On top of being closely evaluated, each company will publish annual reports about their progress in adherence with the code, be subject to sanctions for breaches of their Code commitments and take part in a public complaints mechanism.  

"The reports provide an opportunity for consumers to protect their interests and the public to scrutinise action being taken by a company if it fails to meet its commitments under the Code."

A 10 week consultation period enabled a wide range of feedback from industry, the general public and the government to be considered as part of the Code.

It will also be a living document that can be amended twice a year, Muller said.

"We hope the governance framework will enable it to evolve alongside local conditions, while at the same time respecting the fundamental rights of freedom of expression."

The Code is being released duringNew Zealand's Netsafety Week.

The overarching theme of the week is "Diversity Matters, Online Safety Done Together", which focuses on understanding different communities' online safety perspectives and encouraging respectful relationships online.

"We continue to work with our stakeholders to grow awareness of the Code and welcome more tech companies, including more Kiwi companies, to become a signatory of the Code," Muller said.

"Everyone deserves to be safe online and industry codes are one means to support that to happen. Ultimately addressing these important issues while protecting freedom of expression, will require a whole of society approach and we think this Code is a step in the right direction."