Meta announces partnership with First Draft to address misinformation in New Zealand

The Meta logo on a smartphone resting on a computer
It comes as the company faces increasing scrutiny over how it's impacting society. Photo credit: Getty Images

Meta has announced it is partnering with international misinformation prevention group First Draft with the aim of battling the spread of disinformation in New Zealand.

The 'Don't Be A Mis-Influencer' campaign launches nationally today across the company's Facebook and Instagram platforms. It provides creators, celebrities and high-profile accounts with resources and guides.

Creators are also being asked to post top tips to encourage followers not to spread misinformation and help educate on how best to counter it.

"First Draft monitored the New Zealand election and referenda and saw how small conspiracy theory groups used these events to grow in numbers," Anne Kruger, director of First Draft Australia told Newshub.

"Influencers and the wellness community have used narratives such as 'your body, your choice' to appeal to our autonomy during the pandemic and a time when we might feel we aren't in full control of our lives.

"The problem is, these messages are not giving the full context of the situation and are being pushed by influencers who make money out of that industry, rather than have the true well-being of individuals in mind."

The move comes amid ongoing scrutiny of the Mark Zuckerberg-run company's role on spreading disinformation and the negative impact it's had on people.

As reported by The Guardian, an internal 2019 memo warned how Facebook was letting hate speech and misinformation grow on the platform. 

"We also have compelling evidence that our core product mechanics, such as vitality, recommendations, and optimising for engagement, are a significant part of why these types of speech flourish on the platform," the memo said.

"If integrity takes a hands-off stance for these problems, whether for technical (precision) or philosophical reasons, then the net result is that Facebook, taken as a whole, will be actively (if not necessarily consciously) promoting these types of activities. The mechanics of our platform are not neutral."

Whistleblower Frances Haugen also testified to a US Senate Commerce Committee subcommittee in October, telling the Senators the company's products "harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy", with the company putting profit over moral responsibility.

Meta says it will actively work with influencers in New Zealand to gather feedback and suggestions from them in countering and eliminating misinformation on their platforms for a local audience. 

"With Kiwis spending more time using social media over lockdown to connect with friends and whānau, we know that people are also accessing a range of information sources whilst online," Nick McDonnell, head of public policy for Meta in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, said.

"We are always working to ensure that credible information is promoted and creators can play a role in this too."

That means celebrities and influences need to be aware of their responsibilities when it comes to how quickly they can share misinformation to their millions of fans, Kruger told Newshub.

"The damage can be exacerbated by media reports that repeat the misleading or false claims for clicks," she said.

"Regardless of whether they spread misinformation intentionally or not, celebrities are complicit in information disorder.

"We have to get the messages out to where people are, hence Meta has given us this opportunity to reach people on Facebook and Instagram. It's essential that we keep up the momentum because those with an agenda are highly networked and highly motivated to not give up."