Anti-COVID mandate protesters confused after trolls infiltrate Telegram, attempt to mislead convoy

An anti-COVID mandate protest has gone haywire after trolls infiltrated multiple social media channels and attempted to send convoys to the wrong venues.

Convoys across the country are planning to meet up at Parliament on Tuesday to protest COVID-19 mandates, reverse COVID-19 legislation, and get the "immediate restoration of our universal inalienable human rights".

They mirror similar protests in Canada, where more than 200 trucks and other vehicles blocked roads in central Ottawa to show their disapproval of vaccine mandates.

The New Zealand group originally planned to be at the Auckland Harbour Bridge by about 1:15pm on Sunday, but the convoy had accidentally split into three and had to regroup in Whangārei at about 12:30pm. The North Island convoy is scheduled to reach Hamilton on Sunday and spend the night there.

The convoy was communicating on Telegram and some members also started a channel on Zello, an app that functions like a walkie talkie. But there were reports that people were trolling the Zello channel in a bid to mislead the convoy.

"Beware the weirdos trying to lead astray the convoy, also Zello stay off it, play those good vibe sounds, laugh and be happy whanau, love, peace and harmony all the way," a user said.

There were concerns from people in the convoy who were worried they wouldn't find the group if Zello had been hijacked.

"On Zello people say the lead has driven off too fast and convoy is spread out, nobody can contact the lead vehicle to get them to slow. Very serious if true, but if lies, what's actually going on?" they wrote.

Dozens of protesters were asking on Telegram and in their Facebook group where the convoy was and wanted clearer information.

"C'mon guys. How are we meant to support when there's no updates, photos, live feeds?? We need to get this out there and be seen. I've been looking and looking and coming up empty-handed. Such a shame!" one Facebook user said.

But there were conflicting reports on whether Zello was actually compromised and rumours that even Telegram was no longer safe.

"Zello is not under the control of our group. There are people using it for trolling. Be careful who you listen and talk [to] in there. Spread the message," one person said.

But another user disagreed and wrote: "Saying on Zello not to use Telegram, everyone download Zello and join 'freedom convoy 2022 nz' for live communication and locations."

Anti-COVID mandate protesters confused after trolls infiltrate Telegram, attempt to mislead convoy
Photo credit: Telegram

Twitter user @StrayDogNZ, whose name is Nick, has been following the convoys on Sunday and found that communication for the South Island group travelling north to Wellington was also slightly hairy. One man, who is part of the lead cars in this convoy, posted to the Facebook group that everyone should meet in Washdyke near Timaru to regroup since things "were messy".

But then he said only moments later they couldn't slow down anymore and wait for people to catch up.

"We are already doing 60km/h in a 100km/h. I don't want to hear any other ideas either," he said.

"If you aren't following me you won't find your way through Christchurch, we organised that it would be me and the trucks at the front."

Not only were social media groups infiltrated, but a Spotify playlist the convoy organisers made for others to add "good tunes to drive to" was taken over by people who opposed the protesters.

"Some people are adding some really disgusting music (don't think you can call it music). I'm guessing [it's] people that don't agree with the convoy because they have nothing better to do," one person said.

Songs that were added by those opposing the convoy included 'Redneck Piece of White Trash' by Rebel Son, 'Why Don't You Get A Job' by The Offspring, and 'Dumb F**k' by Peaches.

The North Island convoy is due to arrive in Wellington on Monday night and the South Island group is scheduled to reach Picton sometime that same day before getting the ferry across.