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National leader won't be disciplining Collins over fake news

Gia Garrick, Political Reporter

National's leader Simon Bridges won't be disciplining one of his MPs for calling on the Prime Minister to denounce a story about child sexual abuse - even though it turned out to be fake.

Simon Bridges and
Judith Collins Photo: RNZ

Simon Bridges and Judith Collins Photo: RNZ

Judith Collins tweeted the story from a website known to be a purveyor of fake news yesterday, and was quickly called out on it.

[screenshot]

But Mr Bridges isn't going to reprimand her, saying everyone's prone to a social media controversy, including himself.

"I've liked things before, actually genuinely accidentally. I think when you're scrolling through things, you know that's created it's own little controversy."

That's what Mr Bridges is calling Ms Collins' sharing of an article off a fake news website: an accident.

The website she's shared is known for pushing Russian narrative propaganda, according to one Twitter user, and was apparently involved in Brexit and US election interference.

It's also known for conspiracy theories regarding pop stars, 'revealing' Katy Perry as a cannibal and Justin Bieber as a shapeshifter.

Another Twitter user pointed Ms Collins to an article on the same website reporting a "real life vampire outbreak" in New Zealand.

Others asked whether the Prime Minister should also be denouncing the sinister alliance of the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot.

But despite the faux pas, Mr Bridges does not believe guidelines around fake news are necessary and will not be enforcing them on his party caucus.

"I don't know if I would particularly set down rules or expectations about this," he said.

"I think in this case Judith Collins feels strongly about the issue, that's legitimate. But it is a wrong source, she acknowledges that, and we should in general try and get them right."

The story Ms Collins shared is based on a real news story. France is passing legislation that will make it easier to prosecute crimes of sexual violence against minors.

But the country's President Emmanuel Macron is facing criticism for stopping short of introducing an age of consent.

When asked whether she'd be denouncing anything on day one back from maternity leave, the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was much more careful.

"There is a lot of fake news out there, and I want to make sure that I'm well-versed before I respond to anything like that."

Ms Collins didn't respond to RNZ's requests for comment on her tweet.


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