The ‘Disinformation Project’ is trying to get its hands on $450,000 from government to keep spinning it’s pro-censorship waffle. We can’t let that happen.

Sometimes we feel like we’re playing censorship-whac-a-mole. We see off one major attempt at silencing Kiwis, and just like that another pops up. I wish we weren’t having to contact you again, but once more unto the breach dear friends…  This week, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) released a tender for a major contract to provide ‘insights to build an empirical picture of the disinformation landscape.’ This has all the trappings of a ‘Disinformation Tsar’ role, funded right from the heart of Government. Their work would start before the election which could be seen as… well, convenient.Margaret, you probably know where we’re going with this. It looks like this role has been handmade for Kate Hannah and the Disinformation Project.

There have been major questions about where the Disinformation Project gets its funding, and how viable it is going forward. Well, never fear, $450,000 of taxpayer money would go a long way at keeping it going for a bit longer.

As former-judge, Dr. David Harvey wrote yesterday, ‘Input is not sought from individuals. A certain level of organisation and structure is required of applicants. Institutions are clearly the target.. the “civil society-led group” will probably be appointees which will probably include well-known groups who frequently appear in the “Disinformation” space.

Outcomes in such a situation become predictable.

‘Remember, it was the Disinformation Project who, in a recent report recommended ‘The establishment of a transparent, outside government entity to provide research, analysis and advice for communities, civil society organisations, agencies and independent crown authorities on information disorders and their impacts in Aotearoa New Zealand.’

As Dr. Harvey notes, who better to get a job on disinformation than the people with the issue in their name and who have been calling for this exact sort of group to be established? He sat down with Jonathan and Dr. Bryce Edwards yesterday to discuss the Disinformation Project and this tender on a FB Live.

So what are we doing about it?  When we saw this contract online, we knew we couldn’t sit idly by and watch more public money be pushed towards those sowing division in New Zealand and silencing legitimate speech. There’s no way we’re going to sit on our hands while the very group that is banging the pro-censorship drum the loudest gets even more access to the heart of the Beehive.

That’s why I’m writing to you today to tell you we’re organising a counterbid for this contract.

Jonathan and the team have been working hard this week to assemble a consortium of prominent and imminently qualified academics to bid for this contract. At the heart of our work will be the belief that free speech is the best antidote to error, and that Kiwi’s right to speak freely will lead us furthest away from lies.

We have put together a group that, under the leadership of the Democracy Project based at Victoria University, will bring together credible and well-respected academics which include Dr. Michael Johnson (expert statistician), Dr. David Bromell (policy practitioner), Dr. David Harvey (former judge and legal expert), Dr. James Kierstead (expert on democracy), and Dr. Bryce Edwards (political scientist), among others. This is a crack team to challenge the Disinformation Project for the contract it seems they thought they could count on.

But we also need your help. To bid for a contract like this would usually take weeks of work, and we only have till the end of the month. We’re up to putting the hard yards in and producing a great bid, but we’re going to need to get some advice from a contractor — this is the only way to make sure that there is a credible counteroffer to challenge the disinformation project, and stop them getting $450,000 of taxpayers money. Can you pitch in to help us cover this bill?

DPMC have gone to some lengths to outline the need to protect privacy and human rights (which hopefully they remember includes free speech), but remember, these are the same bureaucrats and politicians that consistently show such disdain for your right to speak freely. You’ll forgive me if we have one or two questions… We’d rather not leave it up to them to ‘do the right thing’- we want to put the best offer on the table

As a donor, I feel you have a right to understand how we spend our money. We expect that the work needed for this bid, and associated costs of the setting up the work and drawing media attention to it, will cost $11-13,000. In my mind, if that keeps the Disinformation Project away from Government funding, it seems like a good deal!

Our bid will defend free speech and will counter lies. We would never suggest that disinformation isn’t a problem we should be concerned about. It absolutely is. When influential members of society, or large numbers, start to accept error, trouble is on its way. But we do not accept a politicised, ideological, censorial use of disinformation, where the ultimate goal is to silence opponents.   Even if the Disinformation Project isn’t the intended recipient of this contract to counter disinformation, whoever does receive it needs to have free speech at the heart of their work, recognising that open discourse is the best antidote to lies.  There are serious forces working to change the way Kiwis think and feel about free speech, that are intent on undermining the right for everyone to have a say.

By the way, if you have experience in drafting tender offers or grant-requests, and would be willing to help us support the Democracy Project in acquiring this contract, drop us a line. Website: 

Dr. Roderick Mulgan Council Chair, Free Speech Union

See also this article on Rebel News Australia about Kate Hannah’s bizarre beliefs. —Eds