Facebook has shut down the page of a controversial political party in New Zealand just two days before the country's general election for spreading Covid-19-related misinformation.
Advance New Zealand/New Zealand Public Party, co-led by conspiracy theorist Billy Te Kahika, had its Facebook page removed on Thursday (October 15) over repeated misinformation violations.
A Facebook spokesperson told Campaign Asia-Pacific:
We don’t allow anyone to share misinformation on our platforms about Covid-19 that could lead to imminent physical harm. We have clear policies against this type of content and will enforce on these policies regardless of anyone’s political position or party affiliation. We removed Advance New Zealand / New Zealand Public Party’s Facebook Page for repeated violations of this policy.
On his personal Facebook page, Te Kahika accused the social-media network of "interfering" in the upcoming election in a live video that at time of publication had been viewed nearly 30,000 times.
Ironically, platforms like Facebook are a reason conspiracy theorists like Te Kahika are able to gain such significant followings.
A report by Stuff published today (October 16) found that Advance New Zealand / New Zealand Public Party was taking out Facebook ads that targeted people interested in US President Donald Trump.
Te Kahika's theories have included claims that Covid-19 is fake, that 5G is a bio-engineered virus and that the government was planning to implement forced vaccinations.
New Zealand's regulatory body Advertising Standards Authority on Tuesday (October 13) ordered Advance New Zealand to stop some advertising that falsely claimed vaccines are mandatory under the law. The advertising flyer contained the words: "Vote Advance NZ to reclaim NZ back for all the people". The ASA ruled the ad was "misleading and irresponsible".
An ongoing social media study led by Victoria University’s Dr Mona Krewel and Professor Jack Vowles found that Advance New Zealand / New Zealand Public Party has posted the highest proportion of "half-truths" of all the country's political parties in the run up to Saturday's election. The study found that nearly a third (31%) of the party’s posts on the social media site were “half-truths”, defined as content that’s not completely false but still contains information that’s not fully accurate, while 6% were fake news.