Politicians, both current and aspiring, are often subject to criticism online. Reynold Macpherson, who is running for mayor, is the latest to be made fun of online by a Facebook page parodying his run for mayor. He's laid a formal complaint with the police about it. Zizi Sparks takes a look at why Macpherson laid the complaint, what might be deemed harmful digital communication and warrant a complaint, and how labelling a page "parody" can affect that.
A Rotorua mayoral candidate has lodged a formal complaint with the police in relation to a social media page parodying his run for mayor.
Reynold Macpherson, who is running for mayor on behalf of the Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayers Association he is secretary of, complained to the police earlier this week about the page.
The complaint centred around identity theft, image theft and "fraudulent impersonation that puts words in my mouth and abuses others, all under the guise of parody".
Macpherson's complaint is in relation to the page labelled a parody of his run for mayor. He said he had asked the administrator of the site to take it down, without success.
"The administrator of the fake site has replied saying the site is labelled parody. That is putting lipstick on a pig," Macpherson told the Rotorua Daily Post.
"My reaction on having the site drawn to my attention by a Residents and Ratepayers' member was the same as the member; disgust at the dirty politics involved because it is not the first anonymous site that has been set up to attack us."
The page was set up on May 29 and has just one like and five posts.
The posts include pointers to Rotorua Daily Post articles written when Macpherson faced a claim of defamation, when it was revealed he had cost the council more than $237,000 and when he launched legal action to get the election results voided.
Netsafe's director of education and engagement, Sean Lyons, couldn't comment on the case specifically but spoke generally about harmful digital communication.
He said any digital communication that caused harm was always concerning.
"Anybody who feels they are being harmed should report that to us and allow us to look into it."
Lyons said if people were in a more public arena, such as politicians, they may be subject to that kind of material online, but it didn't mean their rights were any different.
"There are protections for comedy, satire and parody where it's clearly obvious what's going on is comedy, satire or parody ... That doesn't mean you can call something satire then directly harm somebody."
Lyons said in order for something to be considered harmful digital communication it had to breach one of the principles of the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015 and cause distress to a particular individual.
But digital communication which was harmful to one person, may not be to another.
"Each case has to be looked at individually.
"It has to have an impact. It's not enough to be angered by something."
Lyon said indications of harm included if someone was afraid to go outside or to work or felt unsafe in their own home.
"This could be a marker of experiencing emotional distress."
Lyons said if somebody found something online they didn't like the first step would be to report that to the site.
People can also contact Netsafe or, if a crime has been committed, to the police.
"If someone makes a threat of physical harm or to damage property absolutely report it to the police straight away ... When things are particularly egregious or harmful, at the absolute extreme of what harmful communication could be, that could be a matter for the police.
"Just because it's online doesn't mean you can threaten people."
The police could not confirm whether they had received a complaint, citing privacy concerns, but the Rotorua Daily Post has seen the emailed complaint.