The protest at Parliament was unlike anything seen before, say NZ disinformation researchers in a fresh report.
Seeking to understand how the February 2022 occupation came about, the Disinformation Project team closely tracked mis- and disinformation activity on social media before and during the event, discovering that its spread, speed and size has steadily grown since November.
The level of interaction with misinformation online spiked on February 10, and again on March 2, the protest’s final day.
“More people were watching disinformation accounts than were watching mainstream media,” lead author and Disinformation Project director Kate Hannah told Today FM.
“That is really quite remarkable given the amount of national interest there was.”
A minority of perpetrators played a large part: on the protest’s final day, 73 per cent of interactions in the mis/disinformation networks was generated by just a dozen misinformation figureheads.
“Twelve clusters or groups of individuals had become the superspreaders,” Hannah told Newshub.
Report co-author Sanjana Hattotuwa told RNZ that he is seeing similar misinformation movements to those that helped spark the Capitol riots in the US in January 2021.
“That gives you a hint about how what starts online has consequences offline, and eviscerates our democratic fabric and electoral integrity, as well as our social cohesion.”
The authors say conspiracy thinking hasn’t ended with the protest’s end – but NZ must end its complacency by acting to address this problem.
“We need a broad social conversation. Just simplistic turning off the tap insofar as deplatforming… needs to now evolve into broad social community-oriented conversations. What we can discuss in our whānau and community, what civil society can do, what government can do – and another important aspect is what the social media companies can do.”
Full coverage of the Disinformation Project report:
Parliament occupation sparked ‘tectonic shift’ in NZ disinformation landscape – The Spinoff
Parliament protest created ‘explosion’ in numbers consuming online misinformation – Stuff
‘Tectonic shift’: How Parliament protest supercharged NZ’s misinfodemic – NZ Herald
A dozen Facebook acnts behind misinformation at Parl protests – First Up on RNZ
Author Kate Hannah – Disinformation at the Parliament Protests – Tova on Today FM
Research finds disinformation is festering during the Covid pandemic – Mike Hosking Breakfast on Newstalk ZB
Disinformation ‘super spreaders’ involved in Parliament protest – Morning Report on RNZ
‘Disinformation dozen’ drove three-quarters of fake news chatter during Parliament protest – Breakfast on TVNZ 1
The ‘disinformation dozen’ and how they impacted anti-mandate protest – AM on Three
NZ’s ‘disinformation dozen’ – Nine to Noon on RNZ
Like a Trojan horse – Study shows Wellington protest disinformation was rife in final days – Today FM
‘Dozen’ created 73% of disinformation during Parliament protest – 1 News
NZ’s ‘disinformation dozen’ drove three-quarters of fake news chatter on final day of Parliament protest – Newshub
Why Parliament occupation sparked mass social media disinformation – Lloyd Burr Live on Today FM