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  • Deciphering Media Literacy in Aotearoa New Zealand | Brainbox Institute

    < Back Deciphering Media Literacy in Aotearoa New Zealand Past project December 2023 Media literacy is increasingly important in our information-saturated, high-connectivity world. It’s commonly offered as a core solution to challenges posed by artificial intelligence, synthetic media, platform regulation, and disinformation. But what is it exactly? In December 2023, the Brainbox Institute published a discussion paper, "Deciphering Media Literacy in Aotearoa New Zealand". The paper is a primer for policymakers and other community leaders coming to grips with the subject and includes recommendations for a national stocktake and strategy of media literacy initiatives in Aotearoa New Zealand. Read the paper Back to projects Previous Next

  • All Projects | Brainbox Institute

    Project lead, the Action Coalition on Meaningful Transparency (ACT) Current Project Brainbox is the project lead for the Action Coalition on Meaningful Transparency (ACT), a global multi-stakeholder coalition pushing for effective tech transparency that promotes human rights. The coalition includes tech companies, regulators, civil society organisations, and academics. Learn more Machine readable legal materials Current Project Legal materials like legislation, regulations, and other rules are still published in a way that prioritises paper-based display. Brainbox is working through Syncopate Lab to prepare publicly available machine-structured legislation, to enhance usability and collaboration among stakeholders. Learn more Syncopate Lab Current Project Increasingly, law and legal activities are implemented and performed through digital systems. This presents both risk and opportunity. Brainbox is working with long-time partner, Verb, to conduct public-facing experiments showing how technology itself can be used for regulatory purposes. We are doing this through Syncopate Lab. Learn about Syncopate Deciphering Media Literacy in Aotearoa New Zealand Past project This discussion paper is a primer for policymakers and other community leaders coming to grips with the subject and includes recommendations for a national stocktake and strategy of media literacy initiatives in Aotearoa New Zealand. Learn more Digitising the Drinking Water Quality Assurance Rules Past Project In partnership with Verb via Syncopate Lab (formerly known as the Digital Legal Systems Lab), Brainbox worked with Taumata Arowai to implement water quality rules for drinking water into digital reporting systems. Learn more Content regulation and disinformation in New Zealand Past Project New Zealand is among the countries around the world looking to regulate disinformation and other user-generated content. Brainbox is conducting legal research with funding from the Borrin Foundation and InternetNZ to investigate how disinformation can be approached as a policy problem without undermining human rights principles. Learn more Tribal digital identity project with Āhau Past Project In partnership with Verb and the Digital Legal Systems Lab (now known as Syncopate Lab), Brainbox carried out legal research and design with Āhau, a platform developing a decentralised digital identity services for iwi and hapū to register their tribal affiliations. Learn more Appropriate frameworks for social media analysis: Report for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (NZ) Past Project Governments increasingly perceive analysis of social media activity as an operational necessity, and not always in a law enforcement context. But if such analysis is to be performed, it must be done transparently, accountably, and with adequate safeguards to protect human rights, justify public trust, and preserve the public good. This report prepared for New Zealand's Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet lays out the challenges to doing so and makes the case that any systematic social media analysis should be performed by an independent entity that sits outside of government. Learn more Assessing Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet for institutional investors Past Project Institutional investors representing $13 trillion issued an ultimatum after the Christchurch attacks: platform companies must do better. Two years on, how have they performed? What is the trend of global regulation? Access the Report Transparency-based approaches to social media regulation Past Project Brainbox worked with the University of Otago and the Global Partnership on AI's responsible AI working group. GPAI was proposing collaborative study of how social media recommendation systems deal with terrorist content. Learn more Presentation to the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (legal frameworks working group) Past Project Following our work on social media regulation for the investor coalition and for GPAI, we were asked to present our findings by New Zealand's Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, responsible for online safety and the Christchurch Call. Accessing the slides Submission on proposed national internet filter Past Project Brainbox submitted to the Government Administration Committee on a proposed national internet filter, drawing on our research and consulting in related areas. See more Is the New Zealand legal system ready for deepfakes? Past Project In 2018, Brainbox received support from the New Zealand Law Foundation to publish a report called 'Perception Inception', which looked at the legal implications of emerging synthetic media technologies, including "deepfakes". See more Designing legislation from outside government Past Project A global and national movement has led progress toward enforceable rights for disabled people. Brainbox collaborated to design legislation that would enforce Accessibility for all New Zealanders. See more Can and should we transform legislation into computer code Past Project A global movement called "rules as code" claims law should be translated into computer languages. Legislation could be drafted and implemented as code. What are the merits of this concept and what should policy makers know? Learn more Assisting the Human Rights Commission on responding to COVID-19 Past Project COVID-19 policy is moving rapidly, cutting across a range of policy areas and fundamental human rights. We worked with Antistatic to prepare a series of briefings to support the Commission to fulfil its statutory role. Learn more New Zealand law and synthetic pornography Past Project New Zealand law doesn't make it clear whether synthesising sexual imagery of someone without their consent is criminal. We made a submission to the Justice Committee outlining how the law should be fixed. See more Can we build a system for analysing judicial decisions at scale Past Project Brainbox collaborated with Openlaw NZ to build an open source research tool for analysing case law at scale. In the process, we outlined a superior system of judicial publishing that would increase access to decisions. Learn more Dispute resolution systems and access to justice Past Project Brainbox has published work on dispute resolution systems and access to justice: in medico-legal disputes; and in an online safety context. See our submission on the proposed New Zealand voluntary code on online harms and safety. See more Presentation and discussion to government agencies about deepfakes Past Project Following the publication of our report about the legal implications of deepfake technology and synthetic media, we organised and hosted a forum of around 13 government agencies and regulators to share our findings. See more Projects Filter by Status Select Status

  • The Digital Legal Systems Lab | Brainbox Institute

    The Digital Legal Systems Lab: Projects Syncopate Lab Syncopate Lab (also known as the Digital Legal Systems Lab) reflects our commitment to demonstrating the benefits of better digital legal systems through applied examples, working directly with real clients and stakeholders on real systems. ​ Syncopate was founded based on our commitment to the rule of law, to public service and the public interest, and making sure digital systems and legal systems better reflect one another. ​ Ineffective and inefficient systems not only hurt to use, but can cause real harm too, to the people who use them, and the people who are affected by the outcomes they produce. ​ We think New Zealand can do better and we’re committing to supporting that work. Visit Syncopate Lab Website Access the discussion paper Legislation as Code report

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Blog Posts (18)

  • AI for Organisations: Free Webinar and Q&A

    The Brainbox Institute is pleased to announce a free upcoming seminar and Q&A session focused on artificial intelligence (AI) for organisations. Led by our highly knowledgeable AI Lead, Allyn Robins, this event is designed for decision-makers seeking to navigate the complexities of AI in the workplace. In a rapidly evolving technological landscape, understanding AI is no longer a luxury for leaders – it’s a necessity. On 20 March at 11am NZT, Allyn will discuss the present and future of AI, cutting through the noise to provide clear, practical insights. Attendees will have the opportunity to engage directly with Allyn and get specific queries answered in the interactive Q&A session. This webinar will go beyond surface-level discussions, offering decision-makers a solid foundation for understanding AI’s relevance to their organisations. By the end of the one hour session, attendees will feel more empowered and informed to make strategic decisions around how AI fits into their workplace. Spaces are limited, so secure your spot by registering today. If you can’t make it this time, email to stay informed about future sessions. About Brainbox AI Lead Allyn Robins: Allyn guides the Brainbox Institute's synthetic media and AI-focused initiatives, and remains a key part of many other projects. Prior to starting with Brainbox, he worked as an intelligence analyst at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, where he founded the Emerging Technologies portfolio and played a key role in coordinating efforts to allow New Zealand to navigate an increasingly technologically sophisticated world. He is a highly sought-after expert, offering insightful commentary for leading media outlets like Newshub, Stuff, and Lawfare. Allyn holds a Master’s degree in Physics and Bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Theatre, which has been a more useful combination than you might think.

  • Will a new bill save the New Zealand news media from extinction?

    The crisis we are currently seeing in the news media was on full display yesterday morning during the oral submissions to a parliamentary select committee for the Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill. “It is a real fight for survival for us”, TVNZ’s executive editor Phil O’Sullivan said. Sinead Boucher, owner of Stuff, warned that the news media’s ability to help keep New Zealand “free of corruption and our societies healthy” is currently in “great peril”. Some of the figures raised by submitters helped expose the dire reality of this crisis: NZ Geographic publisher James Frankham said magazine advertising revenue had fallen from $210m to $117m since 2012, and chair of the Radio Broadcasters Association Jana Rangooni predicted that, unless some intervention happens, all commercial media would go extinct in the next decade. While a range of perspectives were aired yesterday on what should be done to rectify the situation, there was little disagreement about why the news media is in this position: in essence, the digital age has disrupted the business models of news media, and now, they are struggling to compete with global tech platforms like Google and Meta for digital ad revenue. It’s this competitive relationship between news media and big tech that the Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill targets. Simply put, the bill would compel digital platforms to negotiate commercial deals with news companies, in order to try to balance the scales financially and to ensure the future viability of the New Zealand news media. “People should have to pay for using content” A key premise of the bill is the argument that tech giants use news media content from kiwi outlets for their own commercial benefit without paying for it. For example, a number of news company submitters complained about the impact of ‘zero click searches’, where search engines like Google scrape and summarise information from webpages – like news sites – to answer users’ search queries without having to click away from the search engine. Another example that came up in submissions was the use of news content to train generative AI models, with no compensation paid to news outlets. Michael Boggs, Chief Executive of NZME, likened this to radio stations playing music on air: if they want to play a song, then they have to pay a licence fee. “You have to pay royalties, it’s a no-brainer. People should have to pay for using content.” Stuff’s Sinead Boucher put it more bluntly, describing generative AI products as “no more than modern day succubi”. However, this logic can go both ways. Digital platforms like Facebook and Google unquestionably provide news outlets with free referral traffic. While some media executives downplayed the importance of this traffic during their submission, the fact of the matter is that news outlets do have the option to opt-out from having snippets of their content displayed on digital platforms – and yet, they have chosen not to do so. The reason for this comes down to another point raised by several submitters, which is the huge amount of control that big global tech platforms have over New Zealand’s digital infrastructure. At the end of the day, the news media needs big tech more than the other way around. New Zealand media isn’t alone in this power imbalance with digital platforms – for example, we’re currently seeing the same dynamic play out in Canada, where a similar bill has recently gone into effect. Rather than coming to the bargaining table, Meta has dug its heels in and blocked news links from appearing on its platform for Canadian users, insisting that it doesn’t need this content in order to be commercially successful. The Copyright Act Former District Court Judge David Harvey suggested in his submission that news outlets already do have a tool at their disposal for dealing with tech giants using New Zealand news content: the Copyright Act. However, some newsroom executives dismissed this as an option. In her submission as President of the News Publishers’ Association, Sinead Boucher said the Copyright Act was not a viable option for New Zealand newsrooms dealing with this issue, as it “plunged people into endless litigation with the biggest media companies in the world." Another reason for newsrooms’ hesitancy to pursue this in the courts is probably because it’s unclear whether a case would actually succeed. For example, newsrooms will be closely watching the current copyright lawsuits against OpenAI in the US. Just this week, a court partially dismissed two lawsuits brought by authors against the artificial intelligence company for copyright infringement, with the judge saying that the authors had not sufficiently demonstrated that there was “substantial similarity” between ChatGPT’s output and their copyrighted works. While commentators have noted the New York Times’ case against OpenAI appears to be strong, as they have clear evidence of ChatGPT outputs regurgitating some of their stories verbatim, a judgement could still conceivably go either way. It’s understandable, then, that New Zealand newsrooms are backing the Fair News Digital Bargaining Bill instead of potentially expensive litigation, as the Bill could provide them with a more certain method of revenue sharing with digital platforms. However, the problem is that this bill wouldn’t do anything to address the aforementioned reliance that New Zealand media has on digital platforms – in fact, it would make them even more reliant on these platforms, as it would firmly establish the platforms as a critical source of funding. Another way? Ultimately, the weakness of this bill is that it tries to bring a copyright-based argument to a markets and competition problem. Instead, a stronger approach would treat these issues as separate, and would address the root cause of the underlying power imbalance without making media dependent on the platforms for income. For example, one alternative could be a bill that breaks-up the dominance digital platforms have in the online advertising market.  This strategy is already being tested in other jurisdictions; for example, The Competition and Transparency in Digital Advertising Act in the US could be a useful blueprint for New Zealand lawmakers keen to bring greater transparency and competition to New Zealand’s digital advertising market, and to level the playing field between the global tech titans and local media players. Of course, breaking up concentration in digital advertising would not be a silver bullet to the woes of the New Zealand media industry. Other options also need to be considered – for example, despite some of the negative optics of the Public Interest Journalism Fund, the government shouldn’t completely dismiss ways in which public funds can be distributed at-arms-length towards public-interest media, in ways that build public trust. Right now, it’s indisputable that the media is at a crisis point, and there will be dire consequences for democracy if local media outlets were to collapse. But as policymakers now deliberate upon solutions, their focus must pivot towards fostering a resilient, competitive, and autonomous news ecosystem – one that steers clear of overreliance on major tech platforms for sustenance.

  • The Brainbox Institute unveils new NZ AI Policy Tracker

    Introducing the NZ AI Policy Tracker – a new resource launched today by the Brainbox Institute. This tool is designed to centralise information about Aotearoa New Zealand’s disparate AI regulatory environment and to provide a convenient one-stop spot for accessing relevant materials. The tracker contains key outputs from government organisations, non-government organisations and experts, such as guidance on generative AI from various ministries, long-term insights plans, and policy documents. Researchers, academics, policy professionals and other interested parties will be able to use the tool to help assess and critique Aotearoa New Zealand’s AI regulatory and planning competency, or to simply understand what efforts are being made across the country’s various agencies. The tracker is intended to be a comprehensive and current resource, so will be regularly updated with new outputs and continue to be freely available. If you believe there is an output we have missed, or there is something you are working on that you would like us to add, please submit it to Please note that the tracker is predominantly aimed at government and non-government outputs intended to foster AI research and policy efforts in Aotearoa New Zealand. It is not intended to be a list of every organisation or agency within Aotearoa New Zealand working in the broader AI space.

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