Otago Daily Times

Little fake news, but some parties using ‘halftruths’


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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