MEDIA RELEASE: Research shows racism is on the rise in Aotearoa New Zealand
Monday 9 October 2023
Independent research group The Disinformation Project has published a report showing that disinformation is contributing to a rise in anti-Māori racism and exposure to white supremacist beliefs in Aotearoa New Zealand.
The research, conducted from June to September this year, shows this pre-election period is characterised by increased antagonism and tension on issues of co-governance, contributing to offline violence.
“There are clear connections between people in disinformation networks engaging in online targeting of Māori, and offline violence,” says Kate Hannah, Director and Founder of The Disinformation Project.
“As we’ve seen this week, these offline harms are having the most impact on wāhine Māori, and our research echoes this.”
The group has studied the growing promotion of a possible ‘civil war’, which disinformation producers are presenting as an inevitable result of co-governance with Māori. Also studied was the rise in false accounts of history, used to deny that Māori are indigenous to New Zealand. These ideas have been amplified by some politicians in the lead-up to the election.
Dr Sanjana Hattotuwa, Director of Research for The Disinformation Project, says that racist ideas in New Zealand are now being used overseas.
“There is a clear interplay in content and commentary targeting Māori in Aotearoa New Zealand, and content used by Australian campaigners to discredit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation as the ‘Voice to Parliament’ referendum takes place.”
The report, titled ‘Race and rage: Examining rising anti-Māori racism and white supremacist ideologies in Aotearoa New Zealand’, also showed an increase in antisemitism and islamophobia, which is having impacts on Jewish and Muslim communities.
“We have found a higher prevalence of anti-Muslim sentiment – including sharing footage of the Masjidain Attacks – now in 2023 than in 2019 immediately after the attacks,” says Hannah.
Anti-Jewish ideologies, including Holocaust denial, are now more overt and found in mainstream platforms such as X (formerly Twitter), where they had previously mostly been found on niche platforms like Telegram.
“X or Twitter has become one of the primary platforms for racist disinformation in Aotearoa,” says Hattotuwa, adding that “mirroring global concerns around the deterioration of platform integrity, disinformation producers in Aotearoa New Zealand seem to be emboldened by a lack of moderation.”