A response from ProjectLoveNZ

This photo represents a ProjectLoveNZ volunteer “taking action against the spread of toxic narratives and hate speech online.”

Last month 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 and some of their academic members.

As you all know from my previous articles on ProjectLoveNZ I am highly suspicious of their motives.

My questions, therefore, were blunt and to the point. Here are my questions and their answers, in full and unedited. I have added my comment on each answer in red.

OFFICIAL INFORMATION ACT REQUEST OIA-19-21 ? PROJECTLOVENZ
I refer to your official information request dated 26 March for information on ProjectLoveNZ. The response to your query is provided below.

Who has given this group legal permission to spy on New Zealand citizens by trawling through their interactions?
Project LOVE is not spying on citizens of any country. This aspect of your request is therefore refused under s18(g), the information requested is not held.

They are not denying that they will be monitoring people’s online conversations.

Who is funding this group?
So far, project LOVE has not received any funding. In the future, the usual academic avenues for funding (publicly advertised and peer reviewed grants) will be explored.

The group could end up being funded by the government.

Will this group be compiling lists of people?s names and if so what will they do with this information?
Project LOVE?s aim is to oppose the spread and remediate the impact of toxic narratives. Project LOVE does not compile lists of people’s names.

The unicorn words do NOT explain clearly what they will be doing or how they will be doing it.

How are the actions of this group any different to the actions of a vigilante group?
Project LOVE is involved with raising awareness, educating, understanding, and taking action against the spread of toxic narratives and hate speech online. Project LOVE has no similarity with a vigilante group.

What kind of action will the group be taking? If we don’t know what it is how can we judge if they are a vigilante group or not?

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 (i.e. speech that there are already laws in place that cover it such as inciting violence or death)
The role of Project LOVE is to oppose the spread and remediate the impact of toxic narratives. It is not a judging role.

They say that they will not be judging and do not provide a definition of hate speech or racism. They do not answer the question about illegal speech. They do not explain the actions they will be taking to oppose ” toxic narratives.” How can they oppose something that they cannot define?

Has Projectlovenz considered the chilling effect on free speech their actions could cause?
Project LOVE supports and believes in the right of any person, independently from their religions, nation of origins, gender identity, and political values to speak safely their ideas in online communities. It aims to foster fruitful and loving conversations on social networks and other online outlets.

So they are going to foster loving and fruitful conversations by opposing “toxic narratives” (that they can’t define) in order for EVERYONE to be able to speak safely. How does that work exactly?

Does Projectlovenz see themselves as the New Zealand version of the Southern Poverty Law Centre?
No.

The SPLC has used it?s (sic) 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 cost people their jobs and livelihoods?
Project LOVE?s aim is to oppose the spread and remediate the impact of toxic narratives. Project LOVE is not spying on citizens of any country.

They haven’t answered the question. It is very simple. Will they or won’t they be aiming to silence people, deplatform websites and cost people their jobs and livelihoods? What do they mean by the word, oppose?

What is Projectlovenz?s mission statement and what is its goal?
Project LOVE?s aim is to oppose the spread and remediate the impact of toxic narratives. More information will be made available in an official launch of its activities.

Does ProjectLovenz have state funding and which person or persons was came up with the idea to create it?
So far, Project LOVE has not received any funding. This project is a community-rooted response to the terrorist attack against the Muslim community in Christchurch. More information will be made available on the launch of its activities.

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