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We're working to make democracy more vibrant and participatory

ActionStation has been campaigning on issues that enhance and protect democracy since we first launched. In 2017, we released The People's Report on Public Media and Broadcasting highlighting the importance of well-funded public media as a response to the spread of mis and disinformation online.

This year, we've continued that work by advocating for policy solutions that ensure the ability of all New Zealanders to access reliable and credible information about issues of public importance and that everyone has the ability to participate safely in public conversations about those issues.

In May, our Open Democracy Campaigner Leroy coordinated over 600 members of the ActionStation community to make submissions to improve the Privacy Act to better reflect the digital age. He presented your views at his first ever Select Committee hearing - the process where you deliver an oral submission to the politicians in charge of making recommendations of how government should proceed based on research, advice and public submissions. We asked for changes to the Privacy Act to include meaningful penalties for companies who fail to tell you when they’ve been hacked. We also supported other GDPR style regulations that would give you more control over how your data is used.

(L to R) Greg O’Connor, Priyanca Radhakrishnan, Virginia Anderson, Raymond Huo, Maggie Barry, Nick Smith, Mark Mitchell.

In September, following one of Facebook's biggest hacks ever, Leroy coordinated ActionStation members to email the chair of the committee and more than 200 of you took action.

In October, Leroy wrote an article for The Spinoff explaining how Facebook ads are being used by political parties. Our electoral laws don’t require any record of these ads, something we are working to change because they have a huge impact on our democracy. He also wrote this article about other changes that need to be made in our political party donation system.

Also in October, our Director Laura presented at Netsafe’s Online Safety Conference to over 200 policy advisors, government officials, educators and representatives from Google, Twitter and Facebook on the impacts of hate speech online and the need for greater regulation.

ActionStation staff team, Greenpeace, Amnesty and the Table Office

In November, the ActionStation team co-hosted an event with the Office of the Clerk and invited representatives from Greenpeace, Amnesty International and the Council of Trade Unions to talk about how we can make democracy more vibrant and robust. It works best when everyone participates after all!

The Office of the Clerk are the people who receive and manage the petitions and submissions that come to Parliament. We met with them to learn and talk more about their processes and ours. We also took the opportunity to make suggestions that could help make the process of democracy more citizen-friendly.

We’ll be taking the lessons into the way we support community groups and passionate individuals who start petitions on our platform and we’ll also be taking part in the review of their processes next year.

Lastly, after every election (local and national) the government is required to have an inquiry into how it went. This is an opportunity to get feedback on how our democracy is going, and review the rules around voting and advertising.

This year there was an inquiry held into the 2017 general election, and the 2016 local body election. One of the focuses of the inquiry is “The increased importance and use of social media in campaigning, advertising, and expression of political opinions.”

We collected our thoughts after a year focussing on the way the internet and social media has been affecting our democracy here in New Zealand and abroad and put together a submission that bought up a number of issues and recommendations, including:

  • The exciting role the internet has in connecting us and amplifying marginalized voices.
  • The ways social media is used to spread misinformation.
  • The unregulated political ads on social media.

We presented our submission in person to the justice committee (the politicians in charge of the inquiry) in November, and answered a few of their questions. We are looking forward to seeing their findings and recommendations in the new year.

As for next steps:

For the last few months, we have been conducting research with The Workshop and UMR to research the impact of online abuse, harassment and bullying on people of colour. The research will come out in February 2019.

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