Harmful Digital Communications and chilling effects

By Eric Crampton 19/08/2015

Here’s Critic on one interpretation of the recent Harmful Digital Communications Bill:

NZ First MP Tracey Martin has claimed Curwen Rolinson is in breach of the Harmful Digital Communications Act, passed in July. In a blog post, Rolinson, former leader of the NZ First youth wing, accused Martin of undermining party MP Andrew Williams.
Speaking at the University of Otago last week, Martin suggested that Rolinson was in breach of the law as a result of a blog post written on 6 July, four days after the Act was officially made into law. 
“I’ve been working on the Harmful Digital Communications bill and what Curwen [Rolinson] did, what Whaleoil [blogger Cameron Slater] does, that’s harmful digital communications,” said Martin.

What did Rolinson do?

Rolinson made accusations last month in a post written on blogging site The Daily Blog. The former youth leader claimed that Martin spread rumours about NZ First MP Andrew Williams in an attempt marginalise him. According to Rolinson, Williams had been flagged as a likely candidate for the deputy leadership role following the 2011 election.
“Martin was lobbying hard for the position of deputy. It was not so much about what she could offer. It was about Williams’ alleged unsuitability for the role. He was called a sexist. A bully. An alcoholic. Rumours were spread throughout the party that Williams had attempted to initiate a physical altercation with Winston [Peters],” wrote Rolinson.
Martin was appointed the deputy leader of NZ First in 2011.
The blog goes on to suggest that Martin colluded with her mother, Anne Martin, when she was the party president in order to remove Andrew Williams from the party list.

I am not a lawyer, but if the allegations are not truthful, and they were published, then it would seem that defamation would have applied.

One wonders whether the point of the Bill, in the view of some MPs, was to silence critics.