National harvested email addresses via petitions

The National Party has apologised for using ‘issue’ petitions to harvest email addresses, then putting the respondents in their database and soliciting for donations.

This is not the first time a party has used petitions to build a contact database. Both Labour and Greens often used petitions and campaigns to gather contact information. They generally committed to just contacting people on the issue they had signed up for – I don’t know whether it went any further than that, or how long the contact data was retained.

This time it is National exposed for using bogus campaigns (petitions are usually of little ort no influence) to harvest contact data.

RNZ:  National apologises for mass database sign-up

The National Party has been forced to apologise to potentially thousands of people after accidentally signing them up to the party database.

Accidentally? Yeah, right.

People who signed up to join two petitions – against scrapping flights to Kāpiti Airport and one to save the Lumsden Maternity Centre in Southland – started also receiving emails from National asking for money to fight the government.

National would not say how many people were added to their database, but thousands signed signed the two petitions started by National MPs.

Neither petition stated that an email address would be added to the party’s mailing list.

Ms Dacombe is now hesitant to sign any more National sponsored petitions in the future.

“Not impressed. I signed the petition to support a local project, not for my email address to be used for another political purpose,” one person wrote.

Another woman said she “was seriously disgusted, & felt seriously insulted, when I received the begging letter from Simon Bridges”.

Another person said the petition was “just a way to collect data to bombard your inbox with National Party propaganda”.

This may be a big backfire for National – people generally don’t like being sucked in and then targeted by politicians.

I don’t think National’s excuses are credible. They tried an old trick and got found out. They deserve the bad publicity for their dishonesty.

Online petitions organised by political parties should be viewed with suspicion.

Two years ago, Labour had to defend its use of a “baby number” widget which offered people the chance to find out what number baby they are, in exchange for giving the party their email address.

That’s just one other example.

And it’s not just petitions obviously linked to an organisation – it is simple and I think probably common for proxy people or groups to be used to run petitions and online campaigns.

Dishonest political parties should be despised and avoided, but it’s hard to know who is the least dishonest when it comes to data gathering and campaigning.

Was New Zealand’s election rigged by foreign powers?

There are big and concerning questions about the use of Facebook to gather hundreds of millions of personality profiles, and then to target those people with “rumour, disinformation and fake news” to influence elections – with Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency in the US, the UK’s Brexit vote, and others. What about the UK general election? France? Germany? Canada?

See Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and the data war.

What about New Zealand? Our election last year was probably mostly influenced by a chain of events, locally derived.

It was always going to be difficult for National to hold on for a fourth term in power, especially given the lack of support parties – a situation that had been evolving for many years.

It would be far fetched to think that Metiria Turei was brainwashed to self destruct and nearly drag the greens down with her.

It would be far fetched to think that Andrew Little was brainwashed to step down as Labour leader less than two months before the election..

It would be far fetched to think that Jacinda Ardern and her sudden rise were influenced by foreign powers – she and her media managers have been working on being ready for an opportunity for some time.

It wouldn’t be so far fetched to think that New Zealand journalists have been targeted and influenced, given their embrace of social media like Twitter and Facebook.

It wouldn’t be so far fetched that Winston Peters has been influenced to suddenly promote a trade agreement with Russia when has been generally strongly opposed to trade agreements.

The personality profile targeting of mass voters seems feasible, and worrying.

It would be far simpler to personality profile individual politicians and to target them.

Of course I don’t think I have been influenced by profilers and manipulators at all [- that’s just something that everyone else could be susceptible to.

Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and the data war

I often seen people doing and sharing surveys and quizzes on Facebook. They always looked looked suspicious to me – they looked designed to suck people in.

And it turns out some of them were exactly that – for a nefarious reason. They were used to gather data and compile personality profiles of hundreds of millions of people, and then those people were targeted with “rumour, disinformation and fake news” to influence them in elections.

The process was used experimentally in many elections in many countries – I don’t know if New Zealand was subjected to subliminal coercion (journalists?). The first big election that it was tried on was the Brexit vote in the UK, which surprisingly swung to a vote to exit the European Union.

Then it was used in the US election which resulted in Donald Trump being elected against the odds (aided by a flawed campaign and a flawed campaigner, Hillary Clinton).

Now Cambridge Analytica and the use and abuse of Facebook is being exposed.

Bloomberg: Facebook Suspends Trump Election Data Firm for Policy Violations

  • Data harvested from 50 million Facebook accounts: N.Y. Times
  • Fighting ‘culture war,’ ex-Cambridge Analytica employee says

Facebook Inc. suspended Cambridge Analytica, a data company that helped President Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election and which may have collected data from 50 million Facebook profiles without their owners’ permission.

The social-networking company said in a blog post Friday that Cambridge Analytica received some user data through an app developer on its social network, violating its policies. In 2015, Facebook said Cambridge Analytica certified that it had destroyed the information.

“Several days ago, we received reports that, contrary to the certifications we were given, not all data was deleted,” Facebook said in a statement. Cambridge Analytica and parent Strategic Communication Laboratories have been suspended from the social network, “pending further information,” Facebook said.

Cambridge Analytica said in a Saturday statement it did nothing illegal and is ​in touch with Facebook in order to resolve the matter as quickly as possible.

Originally funded by Robert Mercer, the conservative political donor and former co-chief executive officer of Renaissance Technologies, Cambridge uses data to reach voters with hyper-targeted messaging, including on Facebook and other online services. It was hired to help with voter outreach by the Trump campaign, whose former campaign manager, Steve Bannon, had been on the company’s board.

Steve Bannon was closely connected to this – and became closely connected to the Trump campaign.

Now one of the people deeply involved is blowing the whistle:The Cambridge Analytica Files 

‘I created Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare tool’: meet the data war whistleblower

For more than a year we’ve been investigating Cambridge Analytica and its links to the Brexit Leave campaign in the UK and Team Trump in the US presidential election. Now, 28-year-old Christopher Wylie goes on the record to discuss his role in hijacking the profiles of millions of Facebook users in order to target the US electorate.

Starting in 2007, Stillwell, while a student, had devised various apps for Facebook, one of which, a personality quiz called myPersonality, had gone viral. Users were scored on “big five” personality traits – Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism – and in exchange, 40% of them consented to give him access to their Facebook profiles.

Suddenly, there was a way of measuring personality traits across the population and correlating scores against Facebook “likes” across millions of people.

The research was original, groundbreaking and had obvious possibilities. “They had a lot of approaches from the security services,” a member of the centre told me. “There was one called You Are What You Like and it was demonstrated to the intelligence services. And it showed these odd patterns; that, for example, people who liked ‘I hate Israel’ on Facebook also tended to like Nike shoes and KitKats.

“There are agencies that fund research on behalf of the intelligence services. And they were all over this research. That one was nicknamed Operation KitKat.”

The defence and military establishment were the first to see the potential of the research.

That should be a concern to everyone – this is not the Russian establishment, it is the US and UK establishment, which New Zealand has close links to.

“And then I came across a paper about how personality traits could be a precursor to political behaviour, and it suddenly made sense. Liberalism is correlated with high openness and low conscientiousness, and when you think of Lib Dems they’re absent-minded professors and hippies. They’re the early adopters… they’re highly open to new ideas. And it just clicked all of a sudden.”

T…the job was research director across the SCL group, a private contractor that has both defence and elections operations. Its defence arm was a contractor to the UK’s Ministry of Defence and the US’s Department of Defense, among others. Its expertise was in “psychological operations” – or psyops – changing people’s minds not through persuasion but through “informational dominance”, a set of techniques that includes rumour, disinformation and fake news.

SCL Elections had used a similar suite of tools in more than 200 elections around the world, mostly in undeveloped democracies that Wylie would come to realise were unequipped to defend themselves.

It turned out the the UK and US democracies were unable to defend themselves either.

A few months later, in autumn 2013, Wylie met Steve Bannon. At the time, he was editor-in-chief of Breitbart, which he had brought to Britain to support his friend Nigel Farage in his mission to take Britain out of the European Union.

“[Bannon] got it immediately. He believes in the whole Andrew Breitbart doctrine that politics is downstream from culture, so to change politics you need to change culture. And fashion trends are a useful proxy for that. Trump is like a pair of Uggs, or Crocs, basically. So how do you get from people thinking ‘Ugh. Totally ugly’ to the moment when everyone is wearing them? That was the inflection point he was looking for.”

But Wylie wasn’t just talking about fashion. He had recently been exposed to a new discipline: “information operations”, which ranks alongside land, sea, air and space in the US military’s doctrine of the “five-dimensional battle space”. His brief ranged across the SCL Group – the British government has paid SCL to conduct counter-extremism operations in the Middle East, and the US Department of Defense has contracted it to work in Afghanistan.

I tell him that another former employee described the firm as “MI6 for hire”, and I’d never quite understood it.

“It’s like dirty MI6 because you’re not constrained. There’s no having to go to a judge to apply for permission. It’s normal for a ‘market research company’ to amass data on domestic populations. And if you’re working in some country and there’s an auxiliary benefit to a current client with aligned interests, well that’s just a bonus.”

It was Bannon who took this idea to the Mercers: Robert Mercer – the co-CEO of the hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, who used his billions to pursue a rightwing agenda, donating to Republican causes and supporting Republican candidates – and his daughter Rebekah.

“It didn’t make any sense to me,” says Wylie. “I didn’t understand either the email or the pitch presentation we did. Why would a Russian oil company want to target information on American voters?”

Mueller’s investigation traces the first stages of the Russian operation to disrupt the 2016 US election back to 2014, when the Russian state made what appears to be its first concerted efforts to harness the power of America’s social media platforms, including Facebook. And it was in late summer of the same year that Cambridge Analytica presented the Russian oil company with an outline of its datasets, capabilities and methodology.

The presentation had little to do with “consumers”. Instead, documents show it focused on election disruption techniques.

Russia, Facebook, Trump, Mercer, Bannon, Brexit. Every one of these threads runs through Cambridge Analytica. Even in the past few weeks, it seems as if the understanding of Facebook’s role has broadened and deepened. The Mueller indictments were part of that, but Paul-Olivier Dehaye – a data expert and academic based in Switzerland, who published some of the first research into Cambridge Analytica’s processes – says it’s become increasingly apparent that Facebook is “abusive by design”. If there is evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, it will be in the platform’s data flows, he says.

Millions of people’s personal information was stolen and used to target them in ways they wouldn’t have seen, and couldn’t have known about, by a mercenary outfit, Cambridge Analytica, who, Wylie says, “would work for anyone”. Who would pitch to Russian oil companies. Would they subvert elections abroad on behalf of foreign governments?

It occurs to me to ask Wylie this one night.


Nato or non-Nato?

“Either. I mean they’re mercenaries. They’ll work for pretty much anyone who pays.”

It’s an incredible revelation. It also encapsulates all of the problems of outsourcing – at a global scale, with added cyberweapons. And in the middle of it all are the public – our intimate family connections, our “likes”, our crumbs of personal data, all sucked into a swirling black hole that’s expanding and growing and is now owned by a politically motivated billionaire.

The Facebook data is out in the wild. And for all Wylie’s efforts, there’s no turning the clock back.

What to take from all of this? It’s difficult to know. The Wylie revelations could be fake news. Or this story could reveal a propaganda genie that is now out of the bottle, an insidious corruption of democracy.

We are all influenced with the news and views we see online. It’s impossible for us to know whether we have been targeted, whether we have been sucked in, whether we have been influenced by people deliberately trying to swing elections.

Using political propaganda is nothing new, it has been done in various ways for a long time. But using the power and speed of the Internet, the potential is certainly there to take propaganda to a new and dangerous level.

How dangerous? Enough to steer the UK towards chaos as they try to extract themselves from the European Union. Enough to install a chaotic president in the US. Enough to elect an unlikely president in France? Enough to create a precarious political balance in Germany?

What about New Zealand? See Was New Zealand’s election rigged by foreign powers?







Ardern interview on Russia

From an interview of Jacinda Ardern on Q & A:

Was it Russia?

Jacinda Ardern: Corin, I’ve been very clear in avoiding saying it was Russia.

But that doesn’t…will you actually say that Russia is responsible?

Jacinda Ardern: We are in exactly the same position as our allies, we stood up in the Hague and avoided saying it was Russia. We have been clear in our statements on this that we’re avoiding saying it was Russia. We’ve made sure the UK is clear on our position as well that we’re avoiding saying it was Russia.

Will you consider sanctions?

Jacinda Ardern: That’s something that we’re avoiding saying.

So you’re not ruling out the possibility of sanctions?

Jacinda Ardern: This is the purpose of why we’re staying in touch. We’re not ruling anything in or out. We are unequivocally equivocal.

If you consider Russia is responsible, why are you talking about a free trade deal?

Jacinda Ardern: We talk a lot. All the time. Many conversations.

So are we not doing a free trade deal with them? Winston says we are.

Jacinda Ardern: As I’ve pointed out in recent times and as He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named himself says, we’re avoiding saying we’re not doing a free trade deal with them and hinting that we will in the future.

So because of the attack you will not now do a free trade deal with Russia?

Jacinda Ardern: We’ll avoid saying that we won’t and hint that we will in the future.

Why was a Russia deal even in the coalition agreement?

Jacinda Ardern: At this point I’ll blither a bit and end it by avoiding saying it was Russia. Ask another question.

You said that Values were going to be a driving force in how you make your decisions. Why’d you put Russia in the coalition agreement?

Jacinda Ardern: We’re still going to obey the letter of the sanctions. We can just work around them.

The point is that that’s not the same as taking a principled stand. The Nats wanted an FTA – it didn’t want to put it on hold but it did, because of the whole principled stand and Values thing. You on the other hand agreed in the coalition agreement to put it back on the table.

Jacinda Ardern: I have to correct you there. They put the FTA on ice and applied travel sanctions but there was still trade. No-one has said that we would not apply the sanctions, but we’ll do the still trading bit and put the FTA back in the oven. The coalition agreement says “striving towards”. Here this means we’re sort-of not really maybe reheating it. Because we stand alongside our partners.

So you’re not saying they’re completely off the table? Or maybe you are saying that? It’s got me fucked.

Jacinda Ardern: Right now, I’m avoiding saying either way. Or both ways.

You would have heard the UK going WTF? Which is it?

Jacinda Ardern: The only point that He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named made is one that I will now describe as immaterial. I am here to make the point that I am avoiding saying it was Russia.

Are we prepared to sacrifice EU/UK trade deals to flirt with Russia?

Jacinda Ardern: I’ve consistently said that we say we prioritise the EU agreement but we don’t name them in the coalition agreement. Just Russia. Who we’re avoiding saying an FTA is off the table with. When we named Russia in the coalition agreement, and didn’t name the EU in that agreement we were not thinking at all about Russia. We were totally focused on the EU. We had not officially resumed FTA talks with Russia, just unofficially. And now I’m telling you we will hint about resuming them in the indeterminate future.

Have you spoken to Winston Peters ever about why he’s pumping for a Russia FTA? Especially when he always votes against FTAs? Did you ask? It seems very odd that Russia is specifically singled out as the one to spoon.

Jacinda Ardern: I’m very clear on the fact that he didn’t tell me a thing and in fact we haven’t even spoken at all in the past week so I’ll talk about fairness. Of course, I’ll avoid saying it was Russia.

Who sets foreign policy in your government?

Jacinda Ardern: Aah..errr…Wi..thee…Us! Collectively! Of course both of he-who-shall-not-be-named have a role to play. And myself. I’m playing a role now.

Winston’s staying all sorts of stuff that’s completely out of sync with you lot.

Jacinda Ardern: I would dispute that. The language has all involved double meanings so we can interpret it in a way that suits us and the Values we work around. Rather like the phrase “flying Emirates”. We have all consistently avoided saying Russia did it.

Winston’s been less hinty that it was the Russians than you.

Jacinda Ardern: At this point I would like to hint some more, without actually saying the Russians did it. That’s a simple statement of fact. Hope this clarifies.

From Full interview: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sits down with Corin Dann after a challenging week for her leadership – by Oligosomanigripnata, headed “A bit of paraphrasing” (as should have quickly become obvious).

Media watch – Monday

19 March 2018


Media Watch is a focus on New Zealand media, blogs and social media. You can post any items of interested related to media.

A primary aim here is to hold media to account in the political arena. A credible and questioning media is an essential part of a healthy democracy.

A general guideline – post opinion on or excerpts from and links to blog posts or comments of interest, whether they are praise, criticism, pointing out issues or sharing useful information.

General chat

“Is there any way we could have a thread for the more lightweight stuff like music and general chat?”

Do it here. Please no personal attacks or bickering. Anything abusive, provocative or inflammatory may be deleted.

Open Forum – Monday

19 March 2018


This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is for you to raise topics that interest you. 

If providing opinions on or summaries of other information also provide a link to that information. Bloggers are welcome to summarise and link to their posts.

Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts.Comments from other forums can be repeated here, cut and paste is fine.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.

FIRST TIME COMMENTERS: Due to abuse by a few first comments under any ID will park in moderation until released (as soon as possible but it can sometimes take a while).

Sometimes comments will go into moderation or spam automatically due to mistyped ID, too many links (>4), or trigger text or other at risk criteria.

Free speech is an important principle here but some people who might pose a risk to the site will have to keep going through moderation due to abuses by a small number of malicious people.

World watch – Monday

Sunday GMT


For posting on events, news, opinions and anything of interest from around the world.

Getting rid of “National are evil baby-eating doers”

I’ve often seen it joked that left wingers see National as baby-eating evil doers, but here it is actually stated:

Why would the GP want to unbundle from Labour when having an agreement with Labour brings them benefits they negotiated and want?

National are baby-eating evil doers. That’s the whole point.

I presume that’s just rhetoric, but it indicates a distinct distaste for anything about National.

The Greens position is (and has been for a long time) that they will work with any party where there is shared policy. For the Greens to work with National in govt National would have to change its economic, social and environmental policies. That’s not going to happen any time soon.

So Greens would only work with National if changed all their policies to Green policies? I don’t think ‘weka’ speaks on behalf of the Green Party, but I’ve seen this attitude expressed before. It’s completely out of touch with how politics works here, especially under MMP (the MMP that allowed Greens to get a presence in Parliament and recently a presence in Government.

And Greens got into Government without Labour and NZ First changing all their policies to Green policies. A lot of Labour policies are very similar or the same as National policies.

And the Greens have had to accept policies put into practice, like the CPTPP (that is supported by both Labour and National), and introduced bills, like the NZ First waka jumping bill, that the greens still oppose, in theory at least.

So this ‘Greens won’t deal with National unless they change all their policies’ is arrogant ignorance.

It’s nothing to do with the Greens being able to tell supporters that National aren’t evil, unless National stop being evil. Has that happened?

There’s an emphasis on ‘National are evil’, minus the baby eating.  It must just be a Green activist attitude – I don’t see James Shaw or Julie Anne Genter saying National are evil, and both seem prepared to work with National if it means progressing some common policy (as happened in the past over cycleways and house insulation).

“we can at least listen to any offer they give us, doesn’t mean they have to accept it but at least it’d mean Labour couldn’t take the Greens for granted any longer”

But the Greens are already in the position of listening to National make offers. National aren’t making any offers (and as above, they don’t have anything that the Greens are interested in).

National have sounded out Greens on some level of cooperation. They did during coalition negotiations. Simon Bridges did when he became National leader.

Green supporters like ‘weka’ are the ones not interested in listening to anyone, including National, who won’t fully accept Green ideals and policies.

“The other is that they have a stated intent to change how parliamentary democracy works in NZ.”

“Forming a government with National would certainly fall under those auspices I’d have thought”

Rofl. Funny as mate.

Not funny – it’s sad that some Green supporters seem like they will never accept working with National (conveniently forgetting when they have), and would hold their MPs to ‘National is evil’ type nonsense.

If Greens are serious about significantly changing how parliamentary democracy works in New Zealand – Chlöe Swarbrick was sounding out ideas on this on Twitter yesterday – then somehow they need to educate some of their supporters that that means they won’t get all their policies and ideals accepted and implemented, it means compromise, and it also means co-operation with all parties.

And it means getting rid of a “National are evil baby-eating evil doers” mentality, or at least democratically voting against the intransigence of those who promote extreme intolerance of other parties.

Green Party announces significant change to Question Time

James Shaw has announced an interesting change to how they are going to deal with the Green Party questions in Question:

Green Party announces significant change to Question Time

The Green Party has today announced that, from this week, most of its allocation of questions for Question Time will be handed over to the Leader of the Opposition to use, in order to limit the prevalence of “patsy questions” in Parliament and to strengthen the ability of Parliament to hold the Government of the day to account.

The only exception is if the Green Party wishes to use a question to hold the Government to account on a particular issue, consistent with the party’s Confidence and Supply agreement with Labour, which acknowledges the ability for the parties to agree to disagree on certain issues.

“The Green Party has long advocated the importance of Parliament having the powers to hold the Government of the day to account. Question Time is a key avenue for the opposition to interrogate the Government, so this move is a small step we can take to live up to the values we stated in opposition now that we are part of the Government,” said Green Party Co-leader James Shaw.

“Using Question Time to ask ourselves scripted, set-piece patsy questions does nothing to advance the principles of democracy and accountability that are very important to us as a party. We expect the opposition to use our questions to hold us to account as much as any other party in Government.

“We think patsy questions are a waste of time, and New Zealanders have not put us in Parliament to do that; we’re there to make positive change for our people and our environment.

“We don’t expect any other party to follow suit – this is about us leading the kind of change we want to see in Parliament.

“The Greens are committed to doing Government differently and doing Government better and this change, along with our voluntary release of Green Ministers diaries to increase transparency, will hopefully spark more of a debate about how we can bring Parliament’s processes and systems into the modern age.

“We will also make a submission to the Standing Orders Review, which kicks off next year, to advocate for further changes to Question Time. This review is where all parties in Parliament make decisions about how future parliaments will operate and is the best place for all politicians to discuss any long term permanent changes to Question Time.

“The Canadian Government has recently trialled changes to Question Time after Justin Trudeau campaigned to do so. This shows parliament systems are not set in stone and should be open to regular review and change to ensure our democracy is healthy and well-functioning.

“We have reserved the right to use our questions when we have a point of difference with our colleagues in government. Our Confidence and Supply Agreement with Labour allows us to agree to disagree on issues, and the occasional respectful questioning of the Government from within is also an important part of democracy.

“That we can occasionally disagree with each other highlights the strength and flexibility of this Government,” said Mr Shaw.

It will be interesting to see whether National changes their approach to Question Time in response.

UPDATE – James Shaw has responded to media claims that Greens had done a deal with National on this.

No deal, just a principled stand

Do you know what frustrates me about Parliament? Sometimes, it’s nothing but a hollow ritual.

As Greens, we’ve always stood for modernising our democracy, making MPs more accountable and giving the public better access to the levers of power.

So from this week, the Green Party will hand over its allocation of questions for Question Time to the Leader of the Opposition. That means, we will no longer waste Parliament’s time or yours asking scripted, set-piece “patsy” questions directed to ourselves.

It doesn’t mean we’ve given up pursuing issues we care about. When those issues arise, our arrangement allows Green MPs still to ask questions where we wish to hold the Government to account.

So why the change? The questions we’re giving up do nothing to advance democratic participation. Question Time should be about holding the Government to account, the Opposition can better use some of our questions to do that.

This is another example of us leading the type of change we want to see in Parliament. We’re walking our walk.

Learn more about Question Time here.