New Zealand isn’t asking people to report COVID-19 policy critics
CLAIM: New Zealand intelligence officials published a booklet asking people to report friends or family members who are critical of coronavirus-related policy measures as terrorists.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The online version of the booklet, which is intended to educate the public about the behavioral indicators of possible violent extremism, makes no mention of coronavirus policy. The New Zealand Security Intelligence Service confirmed to The Associated Press that it is not asking people to report those who oppose COVID-19 public health measures.
THE FACTS: Posts spread widely across various social media platforms over the weekend claiming that New Zealand intelligence officials published a booklet asking people to report friends and family members who oppose COVID-19 measures as terrorists.
“New Zealand has gone full police state,” one Twitter user wrote Saturday. “New Zealand govt booklets being released telling the public that if they suspect their friends or family are opposing govt policies, incl COVID measures, they should be reported as terrorists.” The tweet was shared over 9,000 times. The claim also spread on Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit.
Included in the posts was a video clip of an October news segment discussing a new government booklet designed to help people identify signs of radicalization. In the segment, published online by the New Zealand news service Newshub on Oct. 31, the head of New Zealand’s domestic spying agency does at one point mention opposition to COVID-19 policies.
The comment comes after the the narrator discusses how a new group of potential terrorists “motivated by politics” has emerged in the country in recent months. The video cuts to New Zealand Security Intelligence Service Director-General Rebecca Kitteridge saying, “So it could be the COVID measures that the government took, or it could be other policies that are interpreted as infringing on rights, and it’s what I sometimes describe as a kind of hot mess of ideologies and beliefs fuelled by conspiracy theories.” The video circulating on social media appears to be edited from the original to repeat Kitteridge’s “COVID measures” comment.
But the booklet itself, which can be read online, does not list opposition or criticism of COVID-19 policies as an indicator of violent extremism, nor does it make any mention of the coronavirus. Some of the indicators listed in the booklet include acquiring ingredients for making explosives and expressing a willingness to die for a violent extremist cause.
The booklet does not “ask the public to report anyone for opposing COVID-19 health measures,” a New Zealand Security Intelligence Service spokesperson wrote in an email to the AP.
“To be clear, we are not interested in (or indeed legally permitted to investigate) people who are simply exercising their democratic right to protest against, or oppose, government policy,” the spokesperson added. “We are interested in knowing about people who may be exhibiting signs of mobilising towards an act of violent extremism.”
A forward in the booklet attributed to Kitteridge states that the indicators in the booklet are “not specific to any particular extremist belief or ideology.”
“I am asking all New Zealanders to look out for concerning behaviours or activities that could be easily observed, and to report them,” Kitteridge further states in the forward.
This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.