• Eroded information ecologies: Social cohesion, trust, and the impact of misinformation

    Eroded information ecologies: Social cohesion, trust, and the impact of misinformation

    Speech by Kate Hannah, Director, The Disinformation Project, delivered at New Zealand International Science Festival (NanoFest) 2022, on 14 July 2022.

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    E aku manukura

    Mihi mai, mihi mai

    E mihi atu nei ki tenei hui e ki ngā Rangatira mā

    Tēna koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa. Ko Kate Hannah ahau

    Kia ora koutou katoa, Ko Kate Hannah ahau.

    Eroded information ecologies: social cohesion, trust, and the impact of misinformation

    At the conclusion of the 23-day occupation of Parliament Grounds in Aotearoa New Zealand, the Prime Minister stated:

    “One day it will be our job to try and understand how a group of people could succumb to such wild and dangerous mis- and disinformation. And while many of us have seen that disinformation and dismissed it as conspiracy theory, a small portion of our society have not only believed it, they have acted upon it in an extreme and violent way that cannot stand. We have a difficult journey in front of us to address the underlying cause of what we have seen here today.[1]

    Here at the Disinformation Project, we have been observing the effects of disinformation and misinformation in Aotearoa since February 2020 and can offer some insight now into how mis- and disinformation operate, how they interact with existing inequities and information voids, and the ways in which the compelling nature of some of the most popular disinformation narratives presents critical challenges for Aotearoa New Zealand. Here tonight I am interested mainly in exploring what this means for us as whānau, communities – a country – as we examine our shared information landscape. While sadly that which we might wish to dismiss as conspiracy is having an effect on our social and political spaces, and particularly our shared understanding of the state, democracy, and citizenship, there are, as always, things that we can do individually and collectively to mitigate these effects.

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  • Hate speech in Aotearoa New Zealand: Reflecting and resisting

    By Kayli Taylor

    Content warning: This piece discusses violence against the LGBTQ+ community, including the recent incident against Rainbow Youth in Tauranga. It also discusses violence of a sexual nature, including threats of rape.

    Today, June 18th, is the United Nations inaugural International Day for Countering Hate Speech – building on what the institution has highlighted as the growing international issue of hate speech, its incitement of violence, and impacts on social cohesion. The United Nations defines hate speech as “any kind of communication in speech, writing or behaviour, that attacks or uses pejorative or discriminatory language with reference to a person or a group on the basis of who they are.” Hate speech is increasingly a threat to Aotearoa New Zealand, particularly within the Covid-19 pandemic, and our social cohesion. Hate speech, both its online presence and offline consequences, deserves greater reflection and resistance, as we navigate and counter growing information disorders.

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  • Working Paper: The murmuration of information disorders

    Aotearoa New Zealand’s mis- and disinformation ecologies and the Parliament Protest

    The Disinformation Project is pleased to release a new working paper discussing the occupation of Parliament grounds from February 2022 – March 2022. Download it here.

    The Disinformation Project is an independent research group studying misinformation and disinformation in Aotearoa New Zealand. Since February 2020, we have used mixed methods approaches to analyse and review the seed and spread of information disorders – and their impact on the lives of New Zealanders.

    Aotearoa New Zealand is experiencing an infodemic, where the Covid-19 pandemic furthered the spread of misinformation and disinformation, impacting social cohesion and over the longer term, the country’s democratic fabric and electoral integrity. We help social media companies, journalists, academia, policymakers, and civil society to identify, understand, unpack and meaningfully respond to information disorders.

    The Parliament Protest was a significant online and offline event in Aotearoa New Zealand. Offline, it’s physical presence captured the attention of the nation and fuelled debates about ideas of legitimate protest in Aotearoa New Zealand. Online, its data signatures showed never-seen-before popularity with misinformation, disinformation, and extremist thought.

    In this working paper, which builds on research released last year on the spread of misinformation and disinformation from August 2021 – November 2021, The Disinformation Project explores the role misinformation and disinformation played in the nurture and nature of the protest on Parliament grounds. The new working paper also explores how the protest was projected on social media, disinformation and misinformation ecologies associated with it, and lasting impacts on social cohesion, identity, and democracy in Aotearoa New Zealand.

    “The Parliament Protest was a turning point in the way Aotearoa New Zealand perceives itself, and the role of misinformation and disinformation in that shift cannot be underestimated. From violative vocabulary to pace of content production, we are now studying information disorders at a scale and scope beyond what we studied at the start of 2022.”Kate Hannah, Director of The Disinformation Project.

    “Data signatures associated with the protest on social media, pegged to misinformation and disinformation, had no historical precedent. It is a tectonic shift in Aotearoa New Zealand’s media landscapes, and information ecologies. What we studied will have a significant and lasting impact on the country’s democratic institutions, including electoral integrity.”Dr. Sanjana Hattotuwa, Research Fellow at The Disinformation Project.

    For media and other inquiries, please email info {at} thedisinfoproject {dot} org. Download this press release as a PDF here.

    Featured image: Fake News, by Jamila Hall from Notre Dame Catholic Sixth Form College, Leeds, via BBC.

  • Nau mai, haere mai & Welcome

    Welcome to The Disinformation Project’s website.

    The Disinformation Project is an independent research group studying misinformation and disinformation in Aotearoa New Zealand. Since February 2020, we have used mixed methods approaches to analyse and review the seed and spread of information disorders – and their impact on the lives of New Zealanders.

    Find out more about us, access our output, read about our work in the media, and feel free to contact us

    Featured image: The Web – Friend or Foe? by Eesa Hussain from Joseph Chamberlain Sixth Form College, Birmingham, via BBC.