Government to review 'wild west' internet

BY ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 15:01 14/10/2010

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Justice Minister Simon Power has ordered a review into the ''wild west'' of the internet, he announced today.

The Law Commission will examine the adequacy of regulations around how the internet interacts with the justice system.

Bloggers and online publishers are not subject to any form of regulation or professional or ethical standards, Mr Power told Parliament.

"I've ordered this review because it's imperative the law keeps pace with technology and that we have one set of rules for all news media," Mr Power said.

"At the moment we've got two tracks - conventional media and the so-called 'new media' - intersecting with the justice system, and it's not sustainable.''

He is concerned about how trials can be prejudiced by information posted on websites and seen by jurors, real-time online streaming of court cases, breaches of court suppression orders, and re-publication of a libel.

The review will focus on whether either of the two existing industry watchdogs - the Broadcasting Standards Authority and the Press Council - could provide a suitable vehicle for regulating unregulated forms of new media.  It will release a paper next December.

"Because of the enormous scope of this whole issue, the terms of reference for the review have been tightly defined," Mr Power said.

The review will deal with:

* How to define 'news media' for the purposes of the law.

* Whether and to what extent the jurisdiction of the Broadcasting Standards Authority and/or the Press Council should be extended to cover currently unregulated news media, and if so what legislative changes would be required to achieve this.

* Whether existing criminal and civil remedies for wrongs such as defamation, harassment, breach of confidence, and privacy are effective in the new media environment, and if not whether alternative remedies are available.

Mr Power says the Law Commission is the best vehicle to undertake the review because it reviewed name suppression laws.  The Government moved to tighten laws around this last week, saying being famous was no longer a reason for those who were accused of committing a crime to stay anonymous .

It will be led by Law Commissioner Professor John Burrows QC and former Sunday Star Times editor Cate Honore Brett.

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