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It’s now illegal to be a troll in New Zealand

New Zealand has just passed a bill that makes it illegal to troll people on the internet.

As such, you could now be fined up to $50,000NZ (£21,500) for sending a “harmful digital communication” while in the country.

The bill in question covers a range of popular cyberbullying topics, including comments that are racist, sexist, religiously intolerant, or discriminatory towards given sexual orientations or those with disabilities.

Corporations aren’t immune from this either; a company found to be trolling could face $200,000NZ (£86,000).

There’s also a maximum three-year jail term up for grabs for anyone who thinks inciting suicide using the internet is a good idea.

It’s all thanks to the new Harmful Digital Communications Bill, which has made it through its third and final reading and has now been given royal assent.

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Of course, the bill has faced criticism from internet activists who are concerned the new laws are tantamount to censorship.

Thomas Beagle, executive committee member for the Council for Civil Liberties, described it as a “flawed” bill that undermines free speech, as well as questioning the practicality of such legislation.

Similarly, chief executive of digital rights group InternetNZ Jordan Carter explains: “No legislation is perfect, and this is no exception.”

He continues: “Like all law that applies in a fast-moving technology environment, the risk is of unintended consequences – or chosen balances of rights not working out in practice.”

Carter hopes the government will keep a close eye on how the rollout of the new legislation pans out.

“We must all remain vigilant that we have appropriate responses to online harm without damaging free expression,” he says. “If there is any sign that the good intentions behind this legislation are instead leading to unacceptable restrictions on people’s right to communicate, then quick changes will be important.”

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