Facebook shut down the page of conspiracy-embracing political party Advance New Zealand on Thursday just two days out from a general election, accusing it of spreading misinformation about the coronavirus.
“We don’t allow anyone to share misinformation on our platforms about Covid-19 that could lead to imminent physical harm,” a spokesperson for the social media giant told AFP.
The action prompted the party’s co-leader Billy Te Kahika — who has amassed a huge following using the online platform — to accuse Facebook of meddling in the upcoming vote.
“Facebook have now officially interfered with the New Zealand 2020 elections,” Te Kahika said in a live video posted to his personal Facebook page shortly after the takedown.
“They did it in the middle of a broadcast and it’s unbelievable, guys. This is amazing… they’ve actually carried through with the threat.”
Facebook said it would enforce its policies on coronavirus misinformation “regardless of anyone’s political position or party affiliation”.
“We removed Advance New Zealand/New Zealand Public Party’s Facebook Page for repeated violations” of misinformation policies, it said.
Te Kahika, a former blues musician, is standing for parliament after his social media posts claiming Covid-19 is fake and part of a conspiracy to enslave people became wildly popular in New Zealand.
He accused Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of being behind Facebook’s decision to remove the page.
“This is not North Korea, this is not China, but the way this government’s behaving you’d think it is,” he said.
Te Kahika’s supporters expressed outrage online.
“They did this to Trump, you’re both a threat to the establishment,” commented one, while another said “the more they fight you, the more credible they make you”.
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