Alarm bells must bring out disinformation fire fighters


The cancellation of two disinformation seminars this week amid threats and harassment should be ringing very loud alarm bells.

The seminars, organised by the Disinformation Project and communicated through the Science Media Centre, were to allow journalists to discuss disinformation with a range of experts. However, details of the media-only events in Auckland and Wellington somehow appeared on extremist social media channels. Traffic on those channels suggested the events could be gate crashed and they were cancelled as a safety precaution.

The director of The Disinformation Project, Kate Hannah, told Newsroom political reporter Marc Daalder she had received a death threat after the decision to cancel had been made but before legitimate attendees had been notified. Members of the project had been scheduled to brief journalists.

What is disturbing about this episode – the latest in a string of intimidating actions – is that the invitations were privately despatched to individuals via the Science Media Centre. Like the Disinformation Project itself, the SMC is a highly reputable organisation (whose advisory board I had the privilege of chairing). The fact that a screenshot of the invitation then appeared on Telegram fringe channels raised the ugly possibility that one of the potential invitees shared it with someone connected to those channels, or that their email accounts have been hacked or otherwise compromised. Continue reading “Alarm bells must bring out disinformation fire fighters”

Churchillian view of public media’s future

 The New Public Media Entity has turned into a Churchillian quotation, and it is not “their finest hour”.

Following last Thursday’s Budget, the project to replace Television New Zealand and RNZ has become “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”.

The Budget told us the project would receive $327 million of Government funding over three years in roughly equal annual instalments. The total appropriation for the “Strong Public Media” project over the next four years is $370 million, meaning $43 million will be used to establish the new entity and for the Ministry for Culture & Heritage to “monitor’ it.

That is a sizeable chunk of money, but the Government does expect some pay-back from the commercial operations of what is now Television New Zealand. It estimates a dividend of $306 million over six years.

And that is where the detail ends. Continue reading “Churchillian view of public media’s future”