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Dissent, threats and fury: mood darkens in New Zealand as Covid restrictions bite

The country has seen a rapid uptick in protests and online disinformation, tinged with far-right undertones

For more than a year, New Zealand’s “team of 5 million” stood largely united in the face of Covid-19. This month, as the country expanded vaccine mandates and a tougher roadmap of restrictions for the unvaccinated, that mood has splintered and darkened. Among a small but vocal sliver of the population, dissent has been turning ugly, with death threats against MPs and journalists, increasing protests, warnings from security services about Covid-prompted terror threats, and what researchers have called a “wave” of disinformation tinged with violent rhetoric, QAnon-style conspiracy theories and far-right undertones.

“We’re talking … your aunt and uncle type-people using language like Nuremberg 2.0, common law trials, like ‘the prime minister is a Nazi’ – these are quite extreme terms and terminologies,” says Kate Hannah, a research fellow at Te Pūnaha Matatini’s disinformation project, a research institute that monitors online extremism and rhetoric. Hannah says the team observed an incredibly rapid shift in both the volume and tone of disinformation circulating in New Zealand’s online communities since the Delta outbreak and level 4 lockdown began.

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Read the original article at The Guardian

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