Who’s afraid of Projectlovenz?

Note: If I receive a response from the University after this article has published I will update the article with their response. If the response is not received until the next day or later I will give their response its own post.

Yesterday morning I wrote to the media team of the University of Canterbury to ask them for some information about a joint project between the NZ Herald via Matt Nippert and some of their academic members that journalist Matt Nippert has called projectlovenz on Twitter

As Mr Nippet in the above twitter screenshot indicated that the group will be in operation for years I wanted to get the following questions answered.

A group that will be spying on New Zealanders, run out of a University and working hand in glove with a large media organisation sends shivers down my spine. Do I and my fellow Kiwis have any reason to be afraid of Projectlovenz?

I asked the following questions:

  • Who has given this group legal permission to spy on New Zealand citizens by trawling through their interactions?
  • Who is funding this group?
  • Will this group be compiling lists of people’s names and if so what will they do with this information?
  • How are the actions of this group any different to the actions of a vigilante group?
  • What definition of “Hate speech” and “racism” will this group be using in order to make their moral judgements on other New Zealanders?
  • Will this group confine itself to only searching for illegal speech ( ie speech that there are already laws in place that cover it such as inciting violence or death)
  • Has Projectlovenz considered the chilling effect on free speech their actions could cause?
  • Does Projectlovenz see themselves as the New Zealand version of the Southern Poverty Law Centre?
  • The SPLC has used it’s lists and other information it has gathered to target individuals and businesses and websites in order to cost people their jobs and their livelihoods. Does ProjectLovenz intend to use the information it gathers by spying on New Zealanders to deplatform websites and silence other points of view and to cost people their jobs and livelihoods?
  • What is Projectlovenz’s mission statement and what is its goal?
  • Does Projectlovenz have state funding and which person or persons came up with the idea to create it?