Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Twitter spoofs under spotlight

Don Brash. Photo / Christine Cornege
Don Brash. Photo / Christine Cornege

Act leader Don Brash has been the butt of thousands of satirical tweets made under his name, but doesn't want or expect the Law Commission to take a hard line on such spoofs, when it releases its review of new media regulation next week.

Impersonation of public figures on social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, was among the issues considered by the commission in a review of new media regulation launched by then-Justice Minister Simon Power late last year.

California last year passed legislation making it a criminal offence to impersonate others, including politicians on the internet, but Dr Brash wasn't expecting the commission's initial issues paper to be released on Monday to contain anything that would prevent the Dr Brash Twitter account from continuing its often profane tweets in his name.

"I'm told there's nothing they can do about it anyway so I'm not fussed about it, to be frank."

He indicated the Twitter account had not caused him any distress. "It's pretty obviously a spoof and I don't think anyone takes it very seriously."

However, the commission's work was largely driven by a more serious issue, with Mr Power saying he was concerned that unregulated blogging, Twitter, Facebook and other internet-based publishing posed a threat to the integrity of the justice system.

The review was initiated after blogger Cameron Slater was convicted for breaching name suppression orders on his WhaleOil site.

Mr Power said there should be one set of rules for all news media, and the review would look at extending the powers of the Broadcasting Standards Authority and/or the Press Council to cover new media.

InternetNZ chief executive Vikram Kumar yesterday said his organisation favoured a single regulator and set of laws across all media, including print, broadcast and online.

However, internetNZ believed there should be some means of determining whether social media users were in fact acting as a news entity and should, therefore, be regulated.

David Farrar of blogsite KiwiBlog said he was interested to see the report but was not anxious about internet freedom being curbed.

"I can't see any way that bloggers against their will would ever be classified as media - because how could you possibly draw the line between KiwiBlog which arguably does have some media-type qualities to it and Jane Smith who blogs on knitting?"

Mr Slater, whose views were sought by media law expert John Burrows and former newspaper editor Cate Brett of the Law Commission, said he believed there was little that could be done to regulate internet content through coercion.

- NZ Herald

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