Otago Daily Times

Lit­tle fake news, but some par­ties us­ing ‘half­truths’

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WELLING­TON: While New Zealan­ders can be as­sured they are not be­ing bom­barded with ‘‘fake news’’, there is ev­i­dence of mis­lead­ing be­hav­iour from some po­lit­i­cal par­ties, re­searchers say.

Victoria Uni­ver­sity re­searchers Dr Mona Krewel and Prof Jack Vowles have been lead­ing a team of coders ex­am­in­ing the use of so­cial me­dia by po­lit­i­cal par­ties dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign, and have al­ready an­a­lysed more than 1000 Face­book posts placed by the par­ties and lead­ers dur­ing a twoweek pe­riod.

Dr Krewel said the par­ties that were al­ready in Par­lia­ment had not been shar­ing fake news, but some had been shar­ing posts with ‘‘half truths’’.

‘‘We ac­tu­ally had a very con­ser­va­tive ap­proach when we coded that so our re­search prob­a­bly un­der­es­ti­mates rather than over­es­ti­mates what is there on fake news and half truths be­cause we didn’t want to ac­cuse the par­ties for just the usual dif­fer­ent po­si­tions within po­lit­i­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

‘‘For the par­ties in Par­lia­ment it looks re­ally good, so we nearly have no fake news for the par­ties in Par­lia­ment.

‘‘We have some half truths for them, so for ex­am­ple Act has even 9% of half truths in their Face­book posts.

‘‘To give an ex­am­ple of half truths, we have seen a post by Na­tional that was say­ing that they had a poll where they were lead­ing 43% over 39 [for] Labour for New Zealan­ders trust­ing the par­ties and who can re­cover the econ­omy . . . but the graph they were post­ing that was com­ing with that ac­tu­ally kind of showed that the bar for Labour was just half as high as the one for Na­tional.’’

Some of the par­ties out­side Par­lia­ment — Ad­vance NZ and the New Con­ser­va­tives — seemed to be spread­ing more half truths and were also spread­ing some fake news.

Ad­vance NZ was the worst of­fender with 31% of its Face­book posts con­sid­ered half­truths and 6% en­tirely fake.

The re­search is also mea­sur­ing pos­i­tive ver­sus neg­a­tive cam­paign­ing. In­di­vid­ual posts can be both pos­i­tive — mean­ing it had sup­port­ive, en­cour­ag­ing, af­fir­ma­tive, ben­e­fi­cial or as­sertive in na­ture — and neg­a­tive, mean­ing posts are aimed at crit­i­cis­ing a po­lit­i­cal op­po­nent.

‘‘Most par­ties are very pos­i­tive, most par­ties are run­ning on a pos­i­tive mes­sag­ing rather than a neg­a­tive mes­sag­ing. We see Act is stick­ing out — half of their posts are ac­tu­ally neg­a­tive,’’ Dr Krewel said.

Labour, which at the last elec­tion billed it­self as ‘‘re­lent­lessly pos­i­tive’’ and whose leader Jacinda Ardern has in­sisted she will not run a neg­a­tive cam­paign, ap­peared to be largely liv­ing up to that. Labour had the fewest posts at­tack­ing other par­ties.

How­ever, the Na­tional Party had a slightly higher per­cent­age of posts with a pos­i­tive sen­ti­ment. — RNZ

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