Censor bans Christchurch conspiracy video released by Occupy Parliament group

As the Islamic Women’s Council calls on the coroner to examine the links between online extremism and real-world consequences, a New Zealand conspiracy group active during the occupation in Wellington has promoted misinformation “under false flag” on the 2019 terrorist attack. The quasi-official leaders of the protest are called upon to distance themselves from the extremists among them.

On Tuesday, the Islamic Council of Women appeared before the coroner’s inquest into the 2019 Christchurch bombings. It asked that the coroner’s scope include the role played by digital platforms in the preparation and live broadcast of the massacre.

On the same day, Counterspin Media interrupted its ongoing coverage of the occupation in parliament – which aired on a live-streaming channel and Telegram with a combined audience of tens of thousands – to show a foreign-made conspiracy video which posits the absurd lie that the killing of 51 people at two Christchurch mosques was a “false flag.”

The video was assessed the next day by the New Zealand chief censor, who previously prohibited the livestream of the atrocity, as well as the “manifesto” of the terrorist. Approached by The Spinoff yesterday, David Shanks said the “online post claiming to be a ‘documentary'” had been called out and classified as objectionable. It is now a criminal offense to upload, share or view the video, which includes many images of the images he has already banned.

“This is an abhorrent post that appears to be using the pretense of a ‘false flag’ conspiracy theory to repost a vile video produced by a terrorist killer,” Shanks said. “Its creator doesn’t seem to care about the pain and distress it will inflict on victims and their whānau, or its impact on New Zealanders in general.”

He continued, “This exploitation film presents the same harm to audiences as the March 15 live stream, while adding a layer of toxic misinformation. We have classified it as objectionable, just like the original livestream was. New Zealanders should not interact with this content, and should report it if they see it. Downloading, sharing, and viewing it is an offense, and we have notified law enforcement agencies, including the police and the Department of Home Affairs, of our decision.

Police confirmed that the filing office referred the situation to them. A Home Affairs spokesman told The Spinoff they had been told a video was circulating “across a number of platforms” which “is harmful and further victimizes those who have already suffered greatly”. The DIA would not comment on an ongoing investigation, but encouraged the publication of such material. reportedsaying, “Anyone found knowingly possessing objectionable material or distributing it may receive significant punishment, including imprisonment.”

Aliya Danzeisen. Photo: RNZ/Luke McPake

When hate comes out of the computer

Counterspin’s decision to share such inflammatory disinformation on the day audience assessing the scope of a coroner’s inquest into the open Christchurch terror attack was “probably not a coincidence”, said Aliya Danzeisen, who represented the Islamic Council of Women. It also underscored how essential it was for the coroner, Brigitte Windley, to include the online world in her inquests, she said.. “We want her to look at the role of digital platforms in radicalizing the terrorist, so that we can learn from it, either to motivate the platforms themselves to do a better job of moderation, or so that we, as that community, can set societal expectations for these companies,” Danzeisen told The Spinoff.

Since 2019, there had been “a growing emboldening online,” she said. “With Covid, the way people engage, the way their thoughts are expressed, has been increasingly driven online. It just adds to what was already there, and now, as I said at the coroner’s hearing, it’s leaving the computer and hitting the streets.

The Royal Commission into the Christchurch Terrorist Bombings did not Remark the role of online radicalization in shaping the man’s “far-right views”, as well as the “limited” and “fragile” online capabilities of law enforcement and intelligence services.

What it failed to consider was “what social media did to engage these people, to promote where they were going and to facilitate their communications,” she said. “They only looked at what the terrorist himself had done. We want the focus now to also focus on the people who are building these ecosystems and promoting this information… We need to look at what can be done to ensure that hate is not being created on these platforms, inciting people to a space that they wouldn’t normally do. goes.”

She said: ‘It should have shocked our whole government not just to think about it, but to move on. They think a lot and there doesn’t seem to be much action.

Kris Faafoi (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Counter digital toxins

Kris Faafoi, whose ministerial portfolios include digital media and justice, was unavailable for an interview yesterday, but via a spokesperson, The Spinoff highlighted the Work in progress on hate speech and incitement laws, as well as an interagency group on misinformation and disinformation coordinated by the Prime Minister’s Department and the Cabinet.

“In recent times, the online environment has been a primary method of spreading misinformation and disinformation to galvanize momentum on particular topics. Disinformation and misinformation are also increasingly used as a medium or inspiration for online threats,” the spokesperson said.

He added: “The Minister condemns the violent, racist and anti-Semitic messages which have been associated with the demonstration in Parliament and which have no place in a legitimate peaceful demonstration”.

Government-funded online safety organization Netsafe is currently consulting on a project Code of Practice for Online Safety and Harmsbut it was strongly criticized by a range of groups. internet new zealand noted the process lacked legitimacy because it did not build on “the concerns of communities who have suffered serious and ongoing harm from online systems and behaviors” and called for the exercise to be abandoned and to a new beginning.

Parliament on February 9. Photo: Justin Giovannetti

Counterspin, conspiracy and occupation

Led by Kelvyn Alp, who reportedly spoke in the early 2000s of mustering a private army to overthrow the government, Counterspin presented itself as a proxy host broadcaster for the protest. The messages it promulgates, however, go far beyond the views held by most of those involved in the protest, and far beyond anyone whose demands are limited to the lifting of vaccination mandates.

Alp’s bizarre claims, which seem largely imported from the American far right, include that Covid does not exist, that the government runs a pedophile ring and that the moon landing was a hoax. He and his followers seek the total overthrow of the system of government and the trial and execution of politicians, journalists, police officers, judges, scientists and more, as part of “opposing demonic forces with democide intent”.

Counterspin, Alp and several other figures in his orbit who retain a prominent presence in the occupation systematically castigate other groups and individuals – such as Chantelle and Leighton Baker – who sought to negotiate with the police and parliamentarians.

Countering Conspiracy Theories Aotearoa (fact) yesterday called on Occupy leaders to distance themselves from Counterspin. To describe yourself as a “grassroots group of doctors, nurses, scientists and educators fighting conspiracy theories,” Fact urged them to “disassociate themselves from all calls to arrest and detain politicians, public officials , health professionals, members of the media and the general public. We ask you to condemn threats of violence and public executions. They added, “We ask that you do not legitimize or promote Kelvyn Alp and Counterspin Media or other violent groups by welcoming their continued presence there.”

The now-banned conspiratorial video was not shared on any of the channels of the other major protest groups.

On Monday, The Spinoff sent an email to the ‘End the Mandates’ group of quasi-official leaders who issued several statements which they say represent “the agreed position of groups representing the majority people in parliament”, soliciting their point of view. view of Counterspin’s place within the event. We emailed again yesterday in light of Fact’s open letter, asking if they would disavow any faction calling for violence or executions. The group, which includes Convoy 2022 NZ, Freedom Alliance, NZ Doctors Speaking Out with Science, Outdoors & Freedom Movement, Freedom and Rights Coalition and Voices for Freedom, did not respond.

Annabelle Lee-Mather, Toby Manhire and Ben Thomas discuss the protest and the response from politicians and police on Spinoff’s Gone By Lunchtime podcast. Listen on Apple podcast, Spotify or your favorite podcast provider.

Michael A. Bynum