Media release: Disinformation Project concerned by statements from Winston Peters

Friday 27 October: The Disinformation Project is concerned by statements made by Winston Peters over the last 24 hours, which included false information about the Christchurch Mosque attacks.

Peter’s comments are related to The Christchurch Masjidain Attack Coronial Inquiry which began this week. This process is intended to establish the facts of the events on the day of the attack, including, when desired by families, the details of when and how victims died. Peters’ statements could impact or disrupt this Coronial process.

“Peter’s comments that the Prime Minister’s office kept ‘basic information hidden’ about their response to the attacks, are inaccurate and misleading. The information he refers to was described in some detail in the Report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry, which was published in December 2020,” says Kate Hannah, Director, and Founder of The Disinformation Project.

“As his comments continue despite their potential impacts on the Inquiry process, these conspiratorial sentiments are having a significant impact in local disinformation social media channels,” adds Hannah.

The Disinformation Project has recently published a report about the rise in racism in Aotearoa New Zealand online spaces, which specifically included rising anti-Muslim sentiments. This report outlines the sharp increase in ‘false flag’ rhetoric around the events of 15 March 2019, which questions the public narrative of the attacks and claims the shooting, which claimed 51 lives, was fake.

The Project has also recently noted that current events in Palestine and Israel have resulted in increased targeting of Palestinian and Muslim communities in New Zealand by local disinformation networks.

“From a public communications standpoint, it is irresponsible for a politician who is likely to hold a Ministerial post in the next government, to use this Coronial Inquiry to appeal to communities who believe Aotearoa New Zealand’s worst peacetime massacre was part of a government coverup,” says Nicole Skews-Poole, Director of Communications for The Disinformation Project.

“Disinformation gains traction when the public feel they can’t trust people who seek to represent them, which Peters is contributing to with these comments”, adds Skews-Poole.

Hannah notes that “Peters’ statements have emboldened those who assert that the Christchurch Masjidain attack was a ‘false flag’ event. The continued contestation of the accuracy of reporting of this terrorist attack on the Muslim community takes place in the context of widespread sharing in recent weeks of a link to the footage of the terrorist’s livestream, denial of the facts of the atrocity, and heightened discourse that targets communities. It is also taking place in the context of the Coronial Inquiry, which is the first time that victims and families have an opportunity to establish the timeline of the event.

These statements are irresponsible and unkind.”