The parents of an 11-year-old Wellington girl are upset their daughter’s name and photo have been used by a political candidate for an anti-rainbow “smear campaign”.
A social media post which was shared last week to the Facebook page of the New Conservative Party’s Elliot Ikilei, names Charli Bickerton, 11, who recently featured on KEA Kids News going behind the scenes of Circa Theatre’s The Glitter Garden, a drag show for children.
“Highly sexualised, heavy make-up on a child,” Ikilei wrote about Charli in his post, which links to her news story. He also inferred that drag queens were “grooming” children.
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Ikilei did not seek any permission to use their daughter’s identifying details in his post, nor would they have allowed it, under any circumstances. They had asked Ikilei to remove the post, however he had not responded to them.
Asked by Stuff whether he would remove the post, Ikilei said: “All I did was put the link in; it was yourselves [Stuff] who thought it would be a good idea to plant a child with drag makeup right on the cover.”
Asked whether he could see how the post could be offensive to the Bickertons, or whether he thought he misappropriated the KEA Kids News story, he said: “I did wonder as to why you would use a child to push adult entertainment onto children.”
Blair Bickerton feels Ikilei is unfairly able to get away with having the post online and use his daughter’s identity for political gain. The Bickertons had never heard of the party before being made aware of the post.
“The original purpose of [the KEA Kids News article] was to support that community – don’t use her name, age and face for a smear campaign,” Natasha Bickerton said.
Previously Hugo Grrrl, who organised The Glitter Garden, said they had received death threats and other abuse after Ikilei shared “misinformation” about the show.
Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker said the challenge with the post being allowed to remain up lay in the fact the girl’s original news report was posted to a public forum, Stuff.
However, ethically, Ikilei would have to weigh up his own political motivations with responsibilities around protecting minors, and whether the post was fair on the 11-year-old, Cocker said.
A lot of content being produced during the election was more protected as it was classified as politically-motivated, Cocker said. “Political speech is the most-protected speech.”
Facebook was developing strong hate speech provisions, and attempting to establish other provisions which may provide guidance in cases like this, Cocker said.
An Electoral Commission spokeswoman said the commission did not regulate the content of election advertisements. “This means that issues such as factual accuracy or offensive or misleading advertising are not matters that we can assist with.”
In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said keeping children safe was “one of our most important responsibilities”.
Material that violated any of its bullying, harassments or image privacy policies would be removed as soon as the company was made aware of it, they said.
The Glitter Garden deals with themes of children accepting themselves, and being a good friend.
As of Tuesday evening, the post appeared to have been deleted. It was unclear who removed it.