14 September 2023
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Free speech must be at the heart of fight against disinformation
InternetNZ has announced today a fund of $680,000 from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) to provide grants to minimise the harms of disinformation in New Zealand. The Free Speech Union acknowledges that disinformation is a perennial threat to democracy, which can only be debunked through debate and open discourse, says Chief Executive of the Free Speech Union, Jonathan Ayling.
"The Free Speech Union calls on InternetNZ to respect Kiwis’ freedom of speech when working on disinformation. While they claim their strategy is based on transparency and a commitment to human rights, InternetNZ also supports censorship through a prescriptive approach to regulation.
"These are contradictory values, and a fight against disinformation via censorship will be viewed as an attempt at a 'Ministry of Truth' where foundational civil liberties are not respected.
“Disinformation will be most effectively exposed and countered when democratic values are upheld. Free speech is crucial for that. We cannot discern fact from error if we are afraid to speak our minds.
“InternetNZ has a responsibility to be inclusive of all voices in this process, and to have tolerance for diverse viewpoints. More often than not, differences of opinion on important subjects do not equal disinformation.
"The Free Speech Union will follow with interest the work funded through these grants, and we call on InternetNZ to keep free speech at the heart of their work on disinformation.”