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“Silencing Effect” Of Disinformation Is Evident In The Cancellation Of LGBTQ+ Library Event, Says Research Group

Independent research group The Disinformation Project says that safety concerns leading to the cancellation of a rainbow storytime event in Rotorua is evidence of the growing impact of disinformation in Aotearoa.

“We’ve seen a clear rise in LGBTQ events becoming the target of New Zealand’s disinformation networks. This is especially true of diversity and inclusion initiatives from local Councils or any LGBTQ events for young people or rainbow families,” says Director of Communications Nicole Skews-Poole.

Online hatred towards LGBTQ communities, especially trans and non-binary people, has been growing in Aotearoa in the last two years. Just under a year ago, The Disinformation Project published a snapshot report which outlined the growth of transphobia in disinformation networks.

“Disinformation about transgender people is a popular theme of conspiratorial disinformation channels in New Zealand, including online networks and offline groups like Destiny Church. Critically, the messaging in these groups mirrors that from right-wing and fundamentalist lobby groups from overseas,” says Skews-Poole.

“These networks seek to dehumanise already marginalised groups of people and frame them as risks to society,” says Skews-Poole, noting that “this rhetoric is lifted straight from the way gay men were targeted by homophobic lobby groups in the 1960s and onwards.”

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The research group says that the silencing effect (also known as the “chilling effect”) of disinformation becomes evident when initiatives to promote diversity are cancelled and eventually viewed as too risky to consider because of the corresponding threats of violence and harassment.

“We have a serious issue when libraries don’t feel safe to showcase and celebrate local diversity because groups of people have come to believe false and harmful ideas about other members of their communities.”


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