Big Tech companies to reduce harmful online content, Dodge government regulations

On Monday, Big Tech companies agreed to lessen the harmful online content in New Zealand, making a move that critics said dodged the alternative of government regulation.

Netsafe, a government-funded internet-safety group has said that Meta Platforms Inc, Alphabet-owned Google, TikTok, Inc, and Twitter have signed a code of practice,

Netsafe chief Brent Carey in a statement said that the companies would follow the code as self-regulation. “There are too many Kiwis being bullied, harassed, and abused online, which is why the industry has rallied together to protect users,” said Carey.

Industry lobby group NZTech will be responsible for the companies meeting obligations, which comprise reducing harmful online content, reporting how they do that, and supporting independent evaluation of results.

NZTech chief executive Graeme 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.”

Meta and TikTok said in statements they were keen on the code making online platforms safer and more transparent. Interest groups require more detail, however – for example, sanctions for any failure by the companies to comply and a mechanism for public complaints.

The chief executive of Tohatoha NZ, Mandy Henk said that this is a weak attempt toward preventing regulation in New Zealand and overseas, by encouraging an industry-led model.