As Aotearoa’s independent, non-profit online safety organisation we provide support and education to the community. We’ve helped thousands of people in the 20 years we’ve been around. We’re taking a look back at Netsafe’s history and sharing some of our highlights.
- 2001: Incorporated as a society. We were founded in 1998 to help internet users stay safe online. It was before smartphones were smart, or media had learned to be social but it was clear new technologies were connecting people. After noticing the growing influence of technology in their respective areas, the New Zealand Police, Ministry of Education and several not for profits teamed up with telecommunication organisations and IT industry partners to create an independent body focused on online safety which you know as Netsafe. Thanks to our positive technology stand, pragmatic approach and innovative campaigns, we’ve been at the forefront of online safety and received awards for our efforts too.
- 2001: Released first Netsafe Kit for Schools. Netsafe created a free programme to help schools and kura establish, develop and promote online safety, citizenship and wellbeing in their school community. We’ve had many iterations over the years, and you can learn more about our current Netsafe Schools offering here.
- 2001: First Netsafe conference. We ran our first conference in partnership with the Oxford Internet Institute and University of Auckland. It was well-attended and was the first of many conferences we would go on to host.
- 2002: Established Netsafe’s phone support service. People were able to free call 0508 NETSAFE to obtain confidential and non-judgemental advice and support for any issue or incident they were experiencing.
- 2005: Released Hectors World. Hector’s World was an initiative for teacher and parents to help young people learn about safe online practices and digital citizenship. The core content of Hectors World feature Hector the dolphin and his friends. Each episode has support material for teachers and parents.
- 2008: Netbasics series released and Webby Award Finalist. The Netbasics Animation Series was a collection of animated videos to teach people about online safety, aimed at school students. This website was also a finalist in the Webby Awards for educational content.
- 2009: Developed inmyday.org.nz for parents. This website was designed as a resource for parents, with challenges and activities providing parents with questions that they can ask their children. The questions were designed to start the all-important parent/child conversation about online safety. These days Netsafe recommend parents and whanau follow the seven-steps in our Online Safety Parent Toolkit.
- 2009: Launched thewhatsit.org.nz. Small businesses could enrol their business on the website and create a login for staff. The staff member could then access a policy chosen by their company and watch a set of videos based on these policies to understand more about the risks they may face.
- 2010: Created theorb.org.nz cyber offence reporting portal. The Online Reporting Button (ORB) allowed people to report all online offences and crimes. Netsafe then routed these to the appropriate agency. In the first year of operation, the ORB received an average of five reports per day, Netsafe now receives about 436 reports each week.
- 2010: Launched the scam machine. Scams have been a pervasive issue for many years. As a way to help the community identify a scam, Netsafe created the Scam Machine.
- 2011: Hosted Cyber Security Awareness Week. Netsafe led the development of an awareness week designed to link consumers and small businesses to products and services to help improve their knowledge.
- 2013: Published the Staying Safe Online Guide with online platforms. The guide was developed with Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Trade Me, Twitter, YouTube and Yahoo! The funding from these platforms allowed the production of print copies that were distributed to every school. Check out the latest iteration here.
- 2014: Started coordinating Safer Internet Day. Every February, people around the world come together to celebrate Safer Internet Day and raise awareness of the ways people can keep safe online. Each year the number of supporters grows and Netsafe is proud to continue to lead New Zealand’s involvements. Sign up for Safer Internet Day 2022 now.
- 2014: Joined INHOPE. We were welcomed as the 50th member of INHOPE and are now represented on their board. INHOPE is an active and collaborative network of hotlines in countries worldwide working together to combat child sexual abuse material online.
- 2016: Appointed to provide the service under the Harmful Digital Communications Act. The Harmful Digital Communications Act was passed in 2015 to help people dealing with serious or repeated harmful digital communications. It lays out 10 communication principles that guide how to communicate online. Under the Act, Netsafe has the responsibility to help resolve reports related to alleged breaches. We are not an enforcement agency, but we do have a high resolution rate. If we can’t resolve things, then the person who reported to us may apply to the District Court.
- 2017: Co-hosted the first trans-tasman Conference. Netsafe and the Australian Office of the eSafety Commissioner ran the first annual trans-tasman conference for online safety practitioners. This is now the premier event for online safety in the region. We are looking forward to bringing this event back when it is safe to do so.
- 2018: Developed an automated scam response. In response to the growing number of scam reports, we developed a new tool to help people affected by online scams get immediate help. The tool uses AI to identify whether the report is about a scam commonly reported to Netsafe. Once it has identified the scam, it provides guidance on what to do so that a person can get advice 24/7.
- 2018: Piloted our Youth Action Squad (YAS). We recruited nine young people to run a pilot group of the YAS so we could incorporate the perspectives of rangatahi into our work. The pilot was so successful we established a nationwide YAS. Our YAS is a cornerstone of Netsafe’s strategy to support young people as it helps equips young people with the knowledge and skills to spark discussion, plan initiatives, lead activities and enact positive change.
- 2020: Introduced Stay Connected, Stay Safe. Once it was clear that COVID-19 was changing how people relied on the internet, we developed an education campaign to help people have better online experiences during lockdown. With everyone suddenly connecting, learning or working from home, our helpline was inundated with requests from people needing support, we saw demand for self-help increase and we conducted NZ first research about the impacts of online harm. Find out more about Netsafe’s response.
- 2020: Launched NZ’s first misinformation public education campaign. We undertook a NZ first survey to better understand the awareness towards false and misleading information. As 52 percent of people admitted they fall for fake news, mostly due to misleading articles or headlines we created Your News Bulletin (with the support of Facebook) to help educate people on how to spot it. Our fake news trainer is still widely used and allows people to put their fake news knowledge to the test.
Martin Cocker, Netsafe CEO, says “It’s incredible to look back and see how much Aotearoa – and the world – has changed when it comes to the use of digital technology.
We’ve been here to support the community on a range of online safety topics – including harmful hate speech, child sexual abuse, bullying, image-based abuse, scams, privacy breaches, digital parenting challenges and school incidents.”
Netsafe won’t be stopping anytime soon, and with online and offline activities more connected things are constantly changing.
This means Netsafe’s purpose to enable people to confidently access digital opportunities and prevent online harm is more important than ever before. And we gear everything we do to ensure we achieve that.