|Abstract as per original application
Online harassment, cyber-bullying, doxxing, intimate image abuse and other abusive digital conduct cause significant harm to individuals and society. Legal regulation in Hong Kong has long failed to respond adequately to these forms of ‘hurtful digital communications’ (HDC). The Government is now partially addressing these shortcomings through the introduction of new criminal offences. Yet while criminal law has an important role to deter seriously harmful behaviour, it focuses on the perpetrator rather than the victim, and on punishment rather than prevention, restoration and compensation. This research project adopts a victim-centred approach, and so asks how the civil and administrative law of Hong Kong can be reformed to supplement the criminal law and provide victims of HDC more effective forms of redress.
The research project will systematically identify and map different types of hurtful digital behaviours as they typically occur in Hong Kong, and consider the effectiveness of the current model of regulation. After reviewing comparator jurisdictions, the project will propose a comprehensive and integrated approach to the regulation of HDC in Hong Kong beyond criminal prohibition. It will proceed in three stages.
The first stage will use empirical research to establish a typology of HDC in Hong Kong as well as seek stakeholder views on appropriate legal responses. It also involves a stock take of current methods of regulation, both at common law and in legislation, in Hong Kong. This stage will generate a new framework that describes the continuum of hurtful digital behaviours as they occur in practice and identifies gaps in the current system. It ensures that our project speaks to practical local experiences, rather than assuming evidence gathered elsewhere reflects the situation in Hong Kong.
The second stage will be doctrinal legal research into overseas laws and practices. It compares the laws of Hong Kong with the relevant regulatory approaches adopted or considered in selected other jurisdictions. The laws encompassed are civil causes of action against harassment, privacy invasion and other intentional wrongs, as well as administrative schemes directed at harmful digital content, including ‘take-down’ requirements for intermediaries and end-users, as well as data protection laws.
In the third stage, a comprehensive set of non-criminal legal reforms will be developed and proposed for Hong Kong. These proposed reforms will seek to reduce the problem of HDC and enhance victim protection and empowerment, whilst also being conscious that any attempts to regulate online activity will necessarily implicate other important values including free expression.
網絡空間中的不當行為，如網絡騷擾、霸凌、“起底”個人隱私，以及私密影像的濫用等都對個人和社會造成嚴重損害。在香港，法律手段尚不能有效應對這些“侵害性電子信息” (hurtful digital communications)。政府正試圖通過將該等行為列入新的刑事犯罪等方式儘可能地彌補現有的法律漏洞。然後，儘管刑事法律規定在遏制相關侵害行為上具有重要作用，但刑事規定本身更加注重懲戒而非預防，更加關注加害者而非受害人，從而忽略了對損害結果的補救和賠償。本研究側重受害人視角，重點討論如何對現有的香港民事和行政法律規範進行改進，以便給受有害電子信息侵擾的一方提供更多有效的救濟途徑，以彌補當前刑事法律規制的不足。