Harmful Digital Communications

Cybersmart Home

Understand what our responsibilities are when accessing and using digital content to learn, create, and share.



Make a copy of the Google Slides by clicking on the green 'make a copy' button, it will save to your Drive. Rename and file your copy.

Your teacher will work through parts of the slide presentation with the class, it'll take about one and a half sessions to explore, discuss, and take notes on the information and ideas related to the 'Harmful Digital Communications Act'.


Using the ideas discussed and the notes you've taken on your copy of the slide presentation, create a DLO that would help a person deal with harmful digital communications, and let them know that a law exists to protect them. You can work in a team or alone. Note: A 'DLO' means a 'digital learning object', like a poster, movie, animation, recorded song, etc - it just needs to be a creative digital response. 


Post your work to your blog - use the quality blogging checklist to create a great post. If you are keen to share your work on social media, let your teacher know - it would be great to share a powerful message around the school and the community. 

TP Smart and Legal: Harmful Digital Communications

What is the Harmful Digital Communications Act? 

The Harmful Digital Communications Act (HDC) became law on 3 July 2015 but different parts come into effect at different times. It aims to deter, prevent and lessen harmful digital communications. 

This includes cyber bullying, harassment and revenge porn posted online through emails, text, websites, applications or social media.

Harmful digital communication and cyber bullying includes:

Digital communication is defined widely in the Act to include any form of electronic message such as texts, photos, pictures, recordings etc.

The test for determining what is a harmful digital communication is whether the communication was designed to cause serious emotional distress. This is also very wide in its scope.

What you need to know

The Harmful Digital Communications Act has a range of different measures that come into force at different times to address damaging electronic communications spread through methods such as emails, texts and social media posts. For example, the approved agency and the new District Court orders will begin within 2 years.

Communication principles

There are 10 communication principles that state a digital communication should not:

The approved agency or the District Court must take these principles into account to determine if the Act has been breached when you make a complaint or bring a civil claim.

Complaints agency

The HDCA also sets up a new approved New Zealand complaints agency that will investigate and attempt to resolve harmful digital communications. 

You will be able to contact this agency with any alleged breaches the principles. Netsafe has been appointed to take up this role by November 2016.

Netsafe will investigate alleged breaches of the 10 principles and work with parties to find a resolution. 

Where the parties cannot agree and/or there has been a clear breach of the HDCA, the agency will refer cases to the District Court. 

The Court can order the removal of content and a published apology.

Privacy principles

The HDCA amends two privacy principles 10 and 11 in the Privacy Act.

You can now be found liable for a breach of those principles, when you use or distribute information that was already in the public domain if the use or disclosure harms the individual whom the information is about. 

For example, sharing a link on social media that has malicious comments about a person. This would also cover data breaches, eg where personal information has been distributed in error or deliberately by a hacker and is then used by someone else. That person could be liable for a breach of those principles if it is unfair and unreasonable for them to use that data.

More information:

The above was taken from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) Consumer Protection 15.02.2017 

Contacts if you feel you are being bullied or harassed:

Parents, Teachers, counsellor, or coach

Youthline: Free txt 234 (8am to Midnight daily)  or free phone 0800 37 66 33 (24 hours/a day 365 days a year), Youthline is a free and confidential service

Netsafe: complete an online contact form or call toll-free seven days a week on 0508 NETSAFE (638723), Netsafe is a free and confidential service.

Process for removing harmful digital content

You (or someone on your behalf) can easily and quickly request the removal of harmful and illegal content posted by others (website, blog, social media or phone company).

The process is as follows:

There are specific requirements around making a complaint.

This includes:

Hosting providers can avoid liability if they follow a clear complaints process set out in the Act (called safe harbour provisions). This means you can contact them in the first instance and resolve immediate problems quickly.