Proposed laws to criminalise cyber-bullying and unmask anonymous offenders are being backed by internet security organisation Netsafe.
The Law Commission has released a report on harmful digital communication in an attempt to stamp out the problem.
The paper recommends creating a new criminal offence for sending offensive or harmful messages on sites like Facebook and Twitter and sending hurtful text messages.
It also recommends the creation of a Communications Tribunal which would operate as a "mini-harassment court".
"I think it's a good report, I think the Law Commission's gone to the trouble of narrowing down the options that will work," Martin Cocker from Netsafe told TV ONE's Breakfast.
The law would apply to those aged 14 years and over and an offender could face a penalty of up to three months imprisonment or a fine of $2000.
Less serious cases would be handled by the tribunal, which Cocker said would make it easier for people to access justice.
"It's a big deal to go to court for these sorts of things and if you can set up a tribunal that enables people to access the law at a much lower level then that would be ideal.
"The tribunal doesn't have the full powers of a court but it can act much faster and could help people out."
The Tribunal would include a District Court Judge supported by an IT adviser and would not have any powers to impose criminal sanctions.
Its powers would be limited to providing civil remedies including takedown and cease and desist orders; orders requiring retractions, apologies and rights of reply, and, in some cases, revealing the identity of an offender.
The right to freedom of expression is a key concern under the new legislation and Cocker said it would be protected under the Law Commission's recommendations.
"All through this report there's talk about the need to balance that, it's an important right in New Zealand and we'd expect to see that protected.
"Some people would like to see completely open freedom of expression but that's not realistically what you have - you have a series of rights and they're balanced, and freedom of expression is one."
The measures are in a ministerial briefing prepared for Justice Minister Judith Collins and, if approved, Cocker said they could be implemented fairly swiftly.
"The Law Commission has been clear about what changes are required for the law so there's not a huge process required to get to the end point," he said.
The report proposes amendments to the Harassment Act 1997, the Human Rights Act 1993, the Privacy Act 1993 and the Crimes Act 1961 to ensure that the provisions of these Acts can be readily applied to digital communications.
Under the Crimes Act currently the charge of inciting a person to commit suicide applies only if the victim has committed or attempted suicide.
However, under the proposed law, it would become an offence to incite a person to commit suicide irrespective of whether the person does so.
It would also be an offence to publish intimate visual recordings of another person without their consent.
Complaints would be first referred to an approved agency, such as Netsafe.
The report also suggests new legal requirements for all New Zealand schools to help combat cyber-bullying. The National Administrative Guidelines - laying statutory obligations - should require schools to implement effective anti-bullying programmes. Private schools should also be forced to comply.
Law Commissioner Professor John Burrows said cyber-bullying could "derail lives and contribute to mental illness, suicide and self-harm".
"One of the key conclusions we reach in this report is that new communication technologies can have effects which are more intrusive and pervasive, and thus more emotionally harmful than in the pre-digital era," Burrows said.
Burrows said overseas jurisdictions, including the United Kingdom, Australia and some states in America are moving to criminalise communication causing serious distress and mental harm.
"We are recommending New Zealand follow this lead and criminalise 'grossly offensive' digital communications when they cause serious mental or emotional distress."
Burrows said the Tribunal option had strong support from the police, coroners, the Post Primary Teachers Association, the Human Rights Commission, Trade Me and many other submitters.
"Creating a civil cyberspace will require the active
collaboration of users, educators, parents, and those global
internet and telecommunications businesses whose profitability
depends on the billions of people engaging online," he said.