Experts have found Māori motifs and symbols have been used by non-Māori Covid-19 dis-information spreaders.
by Lillian Hanly
Research released by the Disinformation Project, part of Te Pūnaha Matatini, also show a sharp increase in popularity and intensity of Covid-19 specific disinformation and other forms of ‘dangerous speech’ related to far-right ideologies in the three months, since the beginning of the Delta outbreak in August.
The team have been monitoring publicly available data related to Covid-19 mis- and disinformation since early 2020.
Last year, the Disinformation Project noticed a link between Covid-19 disinformation and fringe beliefs, such as far right ideologies, extreme misogyny, and transphobic material.
Now they are saying the steps between being exposed to disinformation and then extreme ideologies are even closer.
Kate Hannah of the Disinformation Project told 1News they had seen an increase online of extreme misogynistic commentary and visual imagery, racism, islamophobia and white supremacist imagery, as well as indications the government and the state are similar to the Nazi regime.
“The political and social discourse is becoming more and more vulgar and more and more violent,” she said.
The rise correlates with the beginning of the Delta outbreak in late August, and also September 1, which was when the vaccine became available to all New Zealanders.
The report said media reporting on the uptake of vaccination by Māori had increased a perception of Māori being vaccine hesitant and anti-vaccination.
They indicated this had been picked up within circles of disinformation that “capitalises on racism and further targets disinformation towards those groups”.
A Māori researcher who was part of the team said this puts Māori communities further at risk.
“It’s concerning given the majority of Māori became eligible for vaccines on September 1, and that’s when the anti-vaccination movement started to pick up a lot of this co-option.”
The researcher was concerned at the infiltration of overseas narratives, calling it a “direct import” from white supremacist campaigns in the United States.
“They utilise that to infiltrate and leverage off the national movements and we see that happening here.”
The report also referenced the ‘hīkoi’ that took place on the October 26 where participants attempted to get to Waitangi.
The group pointed out the reliance on Māori motifs and symbols, such as the United Tribes flag and the language of ‘hīkoi’. It found it was Pākehā individuals who dominated Telegram and Facebook communications around the event.
The researcher said those who have led those movements for mana motuhake for generations were getting targeted as a result of the use of Māori motifs and symbols.
The researcher said tino rangatiratanga is about the collective and not the individual, calling for kotahitanga at this time.
About 3000 people arrived at Parliament on Tuesday to protest vaccine mandates and lockdown restrictions. Both the Government and Opposition noted the unprecedented level of security in place for the day.