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In major attack on free speech, Migrants NZ Facebook group forced to close | #socialmedia | #hacking | #aihp

In a blatant attack on freedom of speech, the popular Facebook group Migrants NZ, with a membership of more than 75,000 people, was recently forced to shut down after threats of legal action from the New Zealand Immigration Advisers Authority (IAA), a government agency.

A screenshot of the Migrants NZ Facebook page

The group, started by a number of migrants in 2020, expanded rapidly during the COVID-19 pandemic. It provided an important forum, independent of the established parties and unions, for migrants and supporters to share experiences and to criticise the Labour Party-NZ First-Greens coalition government’s anti-immigrant policies. Like capitalist governments internationally, the Labour-led government responded to the pandemic and the resulting economic and social crisis by stoking nationalism and anti-immigrant sentiments.

Members of Migrants NZ opposed Immigration New Zealand’s (INZ) decision to halt the processing of tens of thousands of residency applications during 2020, and other draconian policies including the separation of families by the border closure. Throughout 2020 and 2021, the government refused to provide sufficient quarantine facilities to allow thousands of people legally entitled to live in New Zealand to enter the country. Migrants NZ played a significant role in helping to organise nationwide protests last year against the government’s policies.

The Facebook group has been subjected to what can only be described as politically-motivated censorship—at the very point when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s government is launching a new round of attacks on immigrants. The threats against Migrants NZ point to the increasingly anti-democratic methods that are being used internationally, as governments seek to block the development of working class opposition to their pro-business policies.

On March 31, Migrants NZ’s administrators posted a message saying the group would be “archived”—preventing anyone from making further posts or comments—because the IAA had received a complaint accusing two group members of “providing systemic unlicensed immigration advice.” The post noted: “Providing unlicensed immigration advice is a serious offence and can result in a fine of up to $100,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 7 years.”

A protester outside parliament in Wellington during the May 13, 2021 protest against the government’s immigration restrictions. (WSWS Media)

The administrators said they were trying to find a “workable solution” to keep the Facebook group running. However, this proved impossible, and on May 9 Radio NZ reported that the group had folded permanently.

A source closely involved with Migrants NZ explained to the World Socialist Web Site that the administrators, as well as professional immigration advisors supportive of the group, had come under sustained attack and felt that they had no choice but to disband.

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