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Advance NZ claims election interference after Facebook takes down party's page, citing 'misinformation'

Advance NZ, which has garnered controversy for its anti-vaccination stance, is claiming "election interference" after Facebook took down the party's page just two days before the election.

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The party says the action by an American company has eroded free speech in New Zealand. Source: 1 NEWS

Facebook told 1 NEWS the page was taken down after "repeatedly breaching our misinformation policies".

“We don’t allow anyone to share misinformation on our platforms about Covid-19 that could lead to imminent physical harm," a spokesperson said. 

But party co-leader Billy Te Kahika bristled this afternoon at the action, issuing a statement on behalf of Advance NZ.

“Facebook’s decision to unpublish the page of a registered political party in New Zealand, two days before an election, is nothing short of election interference,” Te Kahika said.

“Advance NZ has been bravely questioning the Government’s approach to Covid-19, sharing the views and advice of international scientists, and standing up to vested interests in New Zealand.

“This is a cynical example of election interference by an American-owned social media outlet that has no business performing any such operation in our sovereign nation."

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The bank belongs to a component party which has donors from both New Zealand and overseas. Source: 1 NEWS

He went on to say he is "horrified beyond belief" at the move before mentioning the take down is an attack on "free speech".

"We need to stand now, in this election, to protect our rights and freedoms. We need a full inquiry into Facebook’s election interference.

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1 NEWS’ politics reporter Anna Whyte has 10 policies from Advance New Zealand in 40 seconds. Source: 1 NEWS

“If Facebook wants advertising revenue from New Zealanders, then Facebook must recognise free speech in our nation.”

Facebook, however, was undeterred. 

"We have clear policies against this type of content and will enforce on these policies regardless of anyone’s political position or party affiliation," the spokesperson said. "We removed Advance New Zealand/New Zealand Public Party’s Facebook Page for repeated violations of this policy."

The move comes as an ongoing study recently found the Advance NZ/New Zealand Public Party is the worst offender of “half-truths” and fake news on Facebook during the election campaign.

The New Zealand Social Media Study, led by Victoria University’s Mona Krewel and Jack Vowles, found 31 per cent of the party’s posts on the social media site were “half-truths” - content that’s not completely false but still contains information that’s not fully accurate - while six per cent were fake news.

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The New Conservative Party was second in the running for posting the most “half-truths” (16 per cent of their Facebook posts) and fake news (3.7 per cent).

ACT was third, with nine per cent of their posts on Facebook considered “half-truths”. But, none of their posts spread fake news.

Vowles said earlier that it was “not surprising” that “the only parties spreading fake news on Facebook are Advance New Zealand and the New Conservative Party”.

“Advance New Zealand — which also incorporates the New Zealand Public Party — is a new party that needs a lot of media attention to have a chance of success. Negativity or conflict increases the ‘newsworthiness’ of stories,” he said.

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People could be seen flouting lockdown rules as they marched down Queen Street. Source: 1 NEWS

“Already before the start of the election campaign, the New Zealand Public Party was spreading conspiracy stories. … It is disturbing most of their misinformation is about Covid-19.

“If widely believed, it has the potential to become life-threatening.”

Facebook announced yesterday plans to crack down on posts discouraging vaccinations. The policy, however, is only intended to target paid advertisement posts. 

Ads that "advocate for or against legislation or government policies around vaccines" — including a Covid-19 vaccine — will still be allowed, the Associated Press reported.

The party, which has staged multiple anti-lockdown protests, has gained traction with well-known American anti-vaccine activists.