COVID Odyssey: Spring Spruce up 32 ~ Post#915: NZ Delta COVID-19~ The Disinformation project

We draw your attention to the Disinformation project.

Since February 2020 a small interdisciplinary team, The Disinformation Project, has been observing and analysing open source, publicly available data related to Covid-19 mis- and disinformation on social media, mainstream media, and in physical and other digital forms of information and knowledge dissemination.

Since 17 August 2021, when Aotearoa New Zealand’s Delta outbreak meant a shift into Alert Level 4 across the country, there has been a sharp increase in the popularity and intensity of Covid-19-specific disinformation and other forms of ‘dangerous speech’ and disinformation, related to far-right ideologies.

Over the past twelve weeks, The Disinformation Project monitored this material, observing key trends and analysing impact. This brief working paper introduces some of our key findings so far on the infodemic – around engagement, content, reception to the Covid-19 vaccine, language, approaches employed, and targeted groups.

Mis- and disinformation in Aotearoa New Zealand

Read the working paper [PDF 2MB]

Mis- and disinformation is transmitted within and across platforms, and often very rapidly reaching audiences in the tens of thousands. The Disinformation Project describes these complex phenomena as “ecologies” – systems and networks that mirror and migrate content, discourses, language, and values across different platforms to audiences, with significant online impact and growing offline consequences. For the purposes of our study we use the following definitions from Berentson-Shaw and Elliot:
• Misinformation: “false information that people didn’t create with the intent to hurt others”
• Disinformation: “false information created with the intention of harming a person, group, or organization, or even a company”
• Malinformation: “true information used with ill intent”


Since the return to Alert Level 4 settings across the country on 17 August 2021, there has been a sharp increase in the popularity and intensity of Covid-19 specific disinformation and other forms of ‘dangerous speech’ and disinformation, related to far-right ideologies. This intensification has included a number of key trends and observations: an increase of both posts and engagement across an ecology of platforms; a shift in reception to the Covid-19 vaccine from vaccine hesitancy to vaccine resistance; the use of memetic material and emotive testimonies; the intensification of language, and the normalisation of that intensification; the use and abuse of Māori motifs and symbols by Pākehā mis- and disinformation spreaders; and the targeting of minority groups and key public figures, particularly those who belong to some intersection of identity.

The ecologies and spread of mis- and disinformation point to a broader threat: that Covid-19 and vaccination are being used as a kind of Trojan Horse for norm-setting and norm-entrenchment of far-right ideologies in Aotearoa New Zealand. Such ideologies include, but are not limited to, ideas about gun control, anti-Māori sentiment, anti-LGBTQIA+, conservative ideals around family and family structure, misogyny, and anti-immigration. Mis- and disinformation and ‘dangerous speech’ pose significant threats
to social cohesion, freedom of expression, inclusion, and safety.

Also see:


COVID-19 disinformation in Aotearoa New Zealand social media

Below is a tag cloud (word cloud) generated from the above text:


Here are other Tag Clouds created for testing using words with a random number of occurrences in an Excel spreadsheet:





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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Anthony says:

    I would of thought by now most people would have more sense than to take in and believe what there reading or hearing or whatever it is that’s caught their interest without first doing their homework&due diligence if it’s real world info, news, whatever?, all though history can be a challenge as there’s a lot of theory with those pushing their views as Facts!..when there is none!… it isn’t hard to find out if it’s a load of rubbish or it’s been stretched to sound more convincing or at least put some doubt to its authenticity?,….and the amount of warnings and alerts as not to be so gullible!,&fact check if you can!, I’ve come across a lot of people specially who I know spouting off rubbish as if their some scholar on the subject to others who are willing to take in&believe what their being spun then they go off telling others but with their own spin added to it!,…but the astonishing thing that I’ve found is that these same people who get taken in by some of the most absurd articles and twisted tales is they actually truly believe and swear heart of hearts it’s Gospel! They will put up a wall of absolute ignorance in which there’s No convincing them otherwise!…and it absolutely amazes me how many of them are out there!,….also a lot that I have come across that fall for all the spin!, aren’t exactly umm? You know we’re I’m coming from!, and it’s quite sad really cause some of these people their brains are like sponges eager to soak up what they think is actual Facts and they feel quite happy&proud to hold this new found knowledge and pass it on!,…

    Liked by 1 person

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