High-up National MP Judith Collins has been tweeting fake news sites to her 14,000 followers—and requesting the Prime Minister respond to their contents.
The MP tweeted an article alleging that “France Passes Law Saying Children Can Consent To Sex With Adults” from notorious fake news site YourNewsWire.com. In her tweet, she asks: “Is @jacindaardern willing to denounce this legislation of child sexual abuse?”
Other articles by the author include that flu vaccines are causing a deadly mass outbreak; that Dave Chappelle was killed and cloned by the Illuminati and all-time classic: “Katy Perry: ‘Human Flesh Is The Best Meat; Cannibalism Got A Bad Rap’”
The article shared by Collins mixes some truth with its unfounded claims. There was a law-change in France, and the country has had extremely loose laws around statutory rape. But this week’s legal change actually tightens up those laws—making it easier for sexual intercourse between an adult and a minor under 15 to be charged as rape. The new law classifies intercourse with a minor as rape if the sex resulted from an "abuse of vulnerability." If the defence can prove the minor gave ‘informed consent’, the charge is changed to sexual assault rather than rape. The law also increases the current statute of limitations for sex crimes to 30 years, up from 20. The law has been critiqued by the left for not going far enough.
But the article declares that the law change was the work of “an international network of liberal activists determined to normalise pedophilia and decriminalise sex with children across the world”.
YourNewsWire appears to focus its coverage on far-right talking points, including conspiracies about large-scale Jewish paedophile rings, the ‘torture’ of Tommy Robinson, ‘pizzagate’ theories, and claims that the Queen would abdicate if the UK voted against Brexit. Some of its theories are more alarming than others—it also has stories alleging that vaccines are causing disease and that the Manchester suicide bombing was a false flag operation.
Fake news sites are one thing—and sites like YourNewsWire mix their fake stories with real to create a veneer of truth and respectability. But when Collins was challenged on the authenticity of the story by reporters, she doubled down, responding to investigative reporter Matt Nippert that if the site was fake news, “Then she won’t have any trouble denouncing it—will she?”
Collins did not respond to requests for comment from VICE asking for her perspective on the reliability of Your NewsWire.com; on fake news’ potential impact on politics globally and in New Zealand; whether she believes fake news is a threat to democratic process; and whether she stands by her request that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern condemn France’s recent law change.