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This is a shared workspace for a project funded by InternetNZ to develop an Internet Freedom Index suitable for the New Zealand context. We invite comments on this draft index, as well as broader discussion based on current internet-related issues in New Zealand and globally.

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Developing a New Zealand Internet Freedom Index

Despite the critical importance of an open and uncapturable Internet, New Zealand public policy and legal discourse on Internet freedoms has remained stubbornly sparse. New Zealand legal publications (such as LawTalk and The New Zealand Law Journal) have little critical analysis of Internet related regulatory measures and discourse is dominated by a narrow range of issues such as intellectual property, privacy and criminal law (for example, online fraud). Concepts of internet rights and freedoms remain inadequately explored by mainstream legal and public policy advocates, although recent cases, such as Megaupload, and discussions at the two successful Net Hui have sparked debate. At the same time, extensive reform of telecommunications infrastructure and regulatory systems (inextricably linked to fundamental issues of an accessible, affordable Internet) have been taking place alongside the Law Commission proposals for regulation of new media. The Commission’s important work has also highlighted research gaps. Yet there are few tools by which the local Internet community can broadly measure the current state of their Internet freedom. Nor are there adequate tools for prompting wider debate and improving awareness of the importance of an open and uncapturable Internet outside of individual (or sectoral) policy and regulatory proposals. This initiative aims to address these gaps by developing an Internet Freedom Index suitable for the New Zealand context.

Background

The 2011 annual report of the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression focused on the Internet. The report considered general human rights principles on freedom of opinion and expression, whether these apply to the internet and a number of issues: arbitrary blocking or filtering of content, criminalizing of legitimate expression, imposition of Internet intermediary liability, the implications of disconnecting users including on the grounds of intellectual property rights violations, cyber-attacks, privacy and data protection, and Internet access. In doing so, the Rapporteur developed a broad framework for assessing freedom of expression on the Internet. Despite a history of being a strong international voice for human rights and freedoms across successive governments, New Zealand has been surprisingly absent from these international initiatives.

The Association for Progressive Communications, in its 2011 annual edition of Global Information Society Watch drew on the Special Rapporteur’s work to focus on the Internet, freedom of expression, freedom of association, and democratisation. For the first time, a country report from New Zealand was included. This proposal aims to build on this work and bring together APC’s New Zealand-based internet rights staff with New Zealand Internet legal and public policy networks to develop an innovative joint proposal for mutual benefit. The time is right to support InternetNZ policy objectives (including its wider international engagement) by bringing these people together to develop a New Zealand Internet Freedom Index. This index would attempt to scope the human rights that NZ citizens should enjoy in respect to their internet activity.

Objectives

Stimulate and support awareness of the importance of an open and uncapturable Internet
Document and promote Internet freedom in New Zealand
Monitor uptake of the Special Rapporteur’s work on freedom of expression and the Internet
Document the NZ public’s views on internet freedom/other rights issues and explore the public legitimacy of a proposed set of internet rights.

Activities

Development of an Internet Freedom Index in light of the Special Rapporteur’s framework
Analysis of national context including literature review and analysis of selected issues
Convening the expert group
Consultations during the IGF 2012
Analysis of existing survey data from WIPNZ and other sources and further exploring of NZ public opinion on these matters
Presentation of the draft Internet Freedom Index by March 2013

Project Team

Joy Liddicoat, Internet Rights Project Coordinator, APC, based in New Zealand
Judge David Harvey, New Zealand District Court
Dr. Charles Crothers, Auckland University of Technology
Dr Judy McGregor, New Zealand Human Rights Commission (until Dec 21 2012), thereafter, Auckland University of Technology
Shawna Finnegan, Internet Rights Project Assistant, APC
Alexandra Groome, Intern, APC


Outputs

Report on a development of draft Internet Freedom Index
Preliminary research on New Zealand in light of the draft Index
Open consultation meeting on the proposed Internet Freedom Index (New Zealand)
If available within funding parameters, an inaugural report assessing Internet Freedom in New Zealand to be available for the 2013 Net Hui 2013
An infographic which depicts the findings and can be used for promotion of an open and uncapturable Internet.

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