COVID-19 misinformation CDs spark warning for West Coast residents

The mysterious CDs are labelled "important".
The mysterious CDs are labelled "important". Photo credit: Facebook

Kiwis who receive a random CD in their letterbox are being warned not to put it in their computer, after complaints of a COVID-19 misinformation campaign on the West Coast.

According to a number of posts on the West Coast Community Facebook page, the mysterious CDs labelled "important" have been spread around the region.

Commentators online have suggested the CDs come from a local anti-vax group, with some calling the misinformation "quite scary".

CERT NZ, a Government organisation that deals with COVID-19 related scams and misinformation, confirmed it has received a number of reports of "potential misinformation" over the previous weeks.

"From a security perspective, CERT NZ recommends you should only put trusted media into your device," CERT NZ incident response manager Nadia Yousef told Newshub.

"We encourage you to be cautious of any unsolicited external media (e.g. CDs, USBs) you may receive."

Yousef said she was unable to give the precise number of actual misinformation reported as "CERT NZ does not analyse or verify the legitimacy of the misinformation".

"CERT NZ refers misinformation reports to the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC), who can then proactively address any issues raised."

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said the ministry had not received a report about the issue from CERT NZ.

However, "we are aware there is material circulating in the community that comments on the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines," the spokesperson said.

"It is important that people use only reliable sources for their information and should carefully consider what they pass on.

"We need a whole of society approach to combat misinformation, not only by government agencies but also academia and the media."

DPMC hasn't had any reports of the CDs.  

Yousef said anyone looking for up-to-date and reliable information about the COVID-19 vaccine should visit the Unite Against COVID-19 website or Ministry of Health website.

Many West Coast locals reacted strongly online to the unsolicited CDs, complaining not only of the content but also about the wasteful way in which it was delivered.

"We got one today in the letterbox ... anti vax ... went straight in fire," wrote one person.

"Throw it in the bin," urged another.

"Whoever did that is irresponsible towards the planet. All that plastic being tossed," a third person wrote.

Others in the community group reported receiving flyers containing anti-COVID-19 vaccination misinformation.

The latest misinformation campaign comes after pamphlets filled with false COVID-19 claims were given out across the country last month by anti-lockdown group Voices for Freedom.

Those pamphlets contained 17 specific claims relating to the coronavirus pandemic - all of which were subsequently debunked by scientists.

People can report COVID-19 misinformation to CERT NZ here.