Disinformation is false or modified information knowingly and deliberately shared to cause harm or achieve a broader aim.
Misinformation is information that is false or misleading, though not created or shared with the direct intention of causing harm.
The way that people access and consume information has radically changed in the last few decades. The ease and speed of access to digitised information has come with numerous benefits. However, these technologies can be used in ways that cause harm. Where individuals or groups communicate to shape public perception in ways that may be manipulative, deceptive or misleading, this can be referred to as ‘disinformation’.
New Zealanders have told us they are concerned about the effects of disinformation and misinformation. Results from public engagement and, in particular, the 2022 National Security Public Survey (as reported in the draft National Security Long Term Insights Briefing) showed misinformation (which here covers both mis- and disinformation) was high on the list of national security threats people felt would likely occur in both the short and long term.
The Government is seeking to support a “whole-of-society” approach to build understanding and resilience against the harms of disinformation, that can be led primarily by those outside government. This approach recognises the need to maintain an open internet and uphold the right to freedom of expression.
The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has a coordinating role to support the development of this whole-of-society approach, with three key initiatives:
- Convening a civil society-led group to scope longer-term work
This group will advise the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet on options for future institution-building in civil society to strengthen resilience to disinformation. This includes exploring the design for a non-government entity to lead long term work on disinformation.
The group will be made up from members of civil society with expertise in disinformation and its impacts, including academia, media, and the legal community. Te Ao Māori perspectives and participation will be important to the group’s work.
The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet will convene the group and provide its secretariat, but will not participate as a member of the group.
- Support for capacity-building and community resilience
The Government is working with civil society on the design of a one-off fund to support community projects and organisations in helping to build New Zealand’s resilience and capacity to respond to disinformation.
- Commissioning public research and analysis into the problem
A set of reports will be commissioned to monitor and analyse Aotearoa’s online information ecosystem, and the impacts of disinformation.
These reports will be made publicly available, to help all New Zealanders to better understand the challenges of disinformation in Aotearoa, and to inform the other two workstreams.
Individual government agencies and statutory bodies are responsible for addressing misinformation and disinformation issues that relate to their specific areas.