Social Media could increase rate of suicides

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Winston Peters says the laws governing social media must change or there will be more suicides in New Zealand – but there is confusion over which minister is going to get it done.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has given an assurance the Government is working on making companies like Facebook more accountable, but it seems no one passed that message on to the minister who’s supposed to be doing the work.

Peters, the Deputy Prime Minister, lashed out at social media companies on Tuesday in an interview with Magic Talk, saying: “You’re going to be forced to have and follow the same standards as the mainstream media.”

He later told reporters suicides would increase if something isn’t done about it.

“People are just going to have their lives absolutely ruined and you’ll have suicides increase because people are being improperly maligned with no chance of defending themselves.

The 74-year old NZ First leader, who once famously appeared to tweet a search of his own name, added: “Either you want that kind of jungle or you want a civilised society with standards.”

Peters says companies like Twitter and Facebook will soon be forced to follow the same rules and laws as mainstream media.

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“You cannot say what you like in mainstream media [because] you are governed by rules of libel and defamation, [and] you cannot traduce people’s reputations without facts, and the social media are.”

ACT leader David Seymour joked that Peters would “have to turn a computer on” first.

It is notoriously difficult to regulate international social media domestically. But according to the Prime Minister, it’s in train.

“What we’re looking for here is just consistency, moving into the modern era and that’s an area that [Internal Affairs] Minister Tracey Martin’s been working on,” Ardern said on Tuesday.

She said Martin has “been doing some thinking and some work”.

But it seems Minister Martin missed the memo.

“I’m not working in that space,” she said. “It’s still a conversation to be had we haven’t had that conversation yet… I’m not confident it’s actually 100 percent my area.”

That’s despite Ardern saying she is “content with the pace” that work is being done in that area.

After the March 15 Christchurch terror attack, Australia introduced criminal penalties for violent content on social media.

As well as the Christchurch Call, the Government has acknowledged we may need similar changes.


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