The rise of fake news has prompted Kiwi Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to sign up to new Facebook transparency rules ahead of the 2020 election.
The rise of fake news has prompted Kiwi Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to sign up to new Facebook transparency rules ahead of the 2020 election.

Fake news in Ardern's sights for NZ poll

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has made an early election year bid to stay clear of poll muckraking, committing Labour to a "positive, factual and robust" campaign.

Kiwis will go to the polls some time this year, with Ardern expected to announce the election day - possibly September 19 - within a month.

On Thursday, at a retreat in Martinborough designed to rev her caucus up for the year ahead, she pledged her party would run a positive and transparent campaign.

Positive, in that Labour will avoid attack ads without a basis in cold, hard fact.

And transparent, with Labour signing up to independent verification of its major policy costings, and a Facebook initiative to track advertising to avoid the spread of 'fake news'.

"We want (the campaign) to be robust, where there is a good exchange between us and other parties," she said.

"But it's incredibly important ... that New Zealand does not fall prey to what we've seen happen in other jurisdictions.

"I've watched tactics used in overseas campaigns that aren't part of New Zealand's election cycle.

"(Labour) has a key role to play in trying to set the tone.

"New Zealanders deserve a factual campaign, one that is free from misinformation, where people can make honest refections for themselves about what they want for the future of New Zealand."

Labour is the second party to take up Facebook's transparency rules after coalition partners the Greens did so last year.

Ardern denied the pledge was part of a stakeout to get opposition leader Simon Bridges to do similarly, saying National's campaign was "a matter for them".

However, with Ardern boasting an incredible lead over Bridges as preferred prime minister, a campaign free of negative advertising would help her maintain her poll advantage.

Ardern's attack on 'fake news' comes after elections in Australia and the United Kingdom in 2019 were blighted by co-ordinated online efforts to spread misinformation.

In last year's Australian poll, Labor was relentlessly attacked for introducing a "death tax", both by opposing political parties and murky online groups using social media platforms like Facebook.

After nine years in opposition, Labour was vaulted into government in 2017 after Ardern negotiated deals with right-leaning NZ First and the left-wing Green party.

As the election nears, the government parties will be able to campaign on a record infrastructure spend, with projects to be announced in the coming weeks.

"We're talking about $12 billion (A$11.5 billion) worth of additional investment," Ardern said.

"That is roughly three times the amount of new capital spending that you would see in a budget, in one go ... that's more investment into infrastructure in one go than most would have seen in a generation."

The infrastructure spending will be targeted to transport, education, health and "decarbonisation" projects.


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