There’s been a great volume of posts and comments on the left blogs about one or more people in Labour, including an MP, allegedly targeting Labour party members for comments they have made on blogs under a pseudonym. The best summary comes from Danyl at the Dim Post:
My understanding of what’s happened here is that most authors on The Standard comment under pseudonyms. And they’ve commented on the Labour blog Red Alert using those same pseudonyms. Now, when you comment on Red Alert you have to provide your real email address. So these have been matched to Labour’s membership and the dissenting members have been contacted by party officials. All pretty creepy.
It is creepy and authoritarian, and worse. If correct, I think the actions may breach the Privacy Act.
Lynn Prentice has commented:
I’d advise anyone who has used a pseudonym on Red Alert that could compromise them in real life to expect problems. The system operators over there are quite compromised, don’t act responsibly, and have been that way for some time. Quite simply they are not operating in a way that makes it safe to leave comments there unless you have cast-iron anonymity. …
Which incidentally, is why you don’t see Red Alert on our feed
That is a hugely damning statement. The person in charge of the most read left blog in New Zealand (and a long term Labour party member) says he won’t even link to the Labour caucus blog because of their ethical standards in using private registration details to target people.
If I was a journalist, I’d be asking whoever is in charge of Red Alert to confirm or deny the allegations from their own party members.
It seems that once the identity of certain people commenting at The Standard was known (by cross-matching the e-mail address they used on Red Alert to their membership database) they were heavied, as were their friends. The Sprout has said:
My friends were heavied in an attempt to intimidate me to stop posting during the leadership contest between Shearer and Cunliffe. Clearly someone in Wellington didn’t like me saying their pony was a rightwing puppet who couldn’t lead a party to save himself. Despite me only stating the obvious, it spurred a pretty awful and nasty intimidation campaign. They knew the people being threatened weren’t me, but they knew too that doing that to my friends would quieten me. How shitty North-Korean is that?
So far it’s been CV, millsy, Peter Wilson, and me – that I know of – but who knows who else has been leaned on to shut up?
Eddie confirms this in a post:
Now, a senior Labour MP has written a letter to the New Zealand Council trying to stamp on debate by party members online. The MP has singled one individual commentator in particular for attack in the letter (don’t worry, you know already if it’s you) after using back-end data from Red Alert to identify them.
To be clear, a senior MP is attempting to change the membership rules of the party to punish a member for writing somethings that the MP doesn’t agree with in the comments section of blogs (which everyone knows Labour MPs don’t read anyway). Talk about breaking a butterfly upon a wheel. Talk about abusing your institutional power in an attempt to insulate yourself from criticism, no matter the cost to the party itself.
And this comes from the party that says it is from open government and protecting people’s right of free speech on the Internet. Can you imagine what they might do if they were actually in Government?
One of those allegedly targeted was Colonial Viper. To make it harder for Labour MPs to work out who to target, many of the commenters as The Standard have adopted similar pseudonyms in a Spartacus strategy! Nice solidarity.
Pete George has a comprehensive set of links on this issue.