Conspiracy-driven bluesman bombs in New Zealand election

Billy Te Kahika had run a conspiracy-fuelled run for parliament in New Zealand, but his party failed to win any seats
·2 min read

A New Zealand blues musician whose conspiracy-fuelled run for parliament prompted Facebook to remove his party's page has been emphatically rejected by voters in the country's general election.

Billy Te Kahika -- popularly known as Billy TK -- attracted million of views on the platform but they failed to translate into votes, with his Advance New Zealand party garnering minuscule support in Saturday's election.

Te Kahika came fourth in the North Island electorate he was contesting, attracting less than 1,000 of the 20,000 ballots cast.

His party, which Te Kahika had predicted would receive about 15 percent of the vote nationally, ended on 0.9 percent, ensuring none of its 60-plus candidates were elected.

Te Kahika was a prolific social media user even after Facebook deleted the Advance NZ page last week, but his online accounts were silent after Saturday's result.

However, Advance NZ co-leader Jami-Lee Ross posted: "This is not the end of the journey... This is just the final paragraph in the first chapter."

Facebook took down the party's page just two days before the election in an unprecedented move against a registered New Zealand political party.

The social media giant, which has become increasingly active against false claims made on its platforms, accused Advance NZ of repeatedly breaching its rules by spreading misinformation about coronavirus.

Te Kahika alleged political interference but Facebook said its policies on Covid-19 misinformation would be enforced "regardless of anyone's political position or party affiliation".

His videos claiming the Covid-19 pandemic was fake and part of a conspiracy to enslave people became wildly popular after he began posting them during lockdown earlier this year.

Between late June and early October, the party's Facebook page generated more than 5.3 million views, according to data from social media tracker CrowdTangle -- stunning figures in a nation of just five million people.

Its page views exceeded the 2.8 million for New Zealand's main opposition National Party and 5.2 million for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's Labour Party over the same period.

AFP fact-checkers debunked two of the party's most popular claims: that the government was authorising the military to enter private residences and planning forced vaccinations.

Ardern, whose science-based approach to the pandemic has eliminated community transmission and seen just 25 deaths from the virus, won Saturday's election in a landslide.