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Developing a New Zealand Internet Freedom Index Proposal

Despite the critical importance of an open and uncapturable Internet, New Zealand public policy and legal discourse on Internet freedoms has remained stubbornly sparse.1 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 Law Commission proposals for regulation of new media.2 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. A suggested draft framework is attached.


The 2011 annual report of the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression focussed on the Internet.3 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.4

APC5, in its 2011 annual edition of Global Information Society Watch6 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.7 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 The objectives are to: 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.


The research would be a collaborative effort led by APC’s Joy Liddicoat (who is also a member of InternetNZ) working with a group of New Zealand experts including Judge David Harvey, Dr Judy McGregor, and Professor Charles Crothers, Head of Social Sciences at AUT and a research member of the NZ arm of the World Internet Project.8 The group would critique the development of the index, taking into account, where appropriate, other relevant initiatives9 and other New Zealand Internet research.10 Support for the proposal can be leveraged off APC’s extensive work on freedom of expression on the Internet11 and its participation in the 2012 Internet Governance Forum in Baku in November. The Special Rapporteur is also attending the IGF and the opportunity can be taken to consult with him and seek feedback from other countries and experts about the proposed Index. Specific activities would therefore include:

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


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.