An organisation known for its anti-vaccine messaging has had its advertising pulled from one company's Auckland billboards.
Voices For Freedom, the group behind a national leaflet drop containing disinformation about the Pfizer vaccine, paid to advertise its view on the status of free speech in New Zealand.
The group's ads, which appeared in half a dozen different variations, were shown on about four digital billboards in Auckland, managed by media company LUMO Digital Outdoor - including two attached to the Radio New Zealand building.
The ads were up on LUMO's billboards for about three hours on Monday morning before they were taken down.
Voices For Freedom co-founder Claire Deeks said she was "deeply disappointed" by LUMO's decision.
"They are paying lip service to a fundamental right and ignoring the voice of thousands of New Zealanders."
LUMO chief executive Phil Clemas said he did not object to the ads specifically, but instead to what Voices For Freedom had published in the past.
"It came to our attention that the organisation behind it was a little more questionable than the messages," he said.
Asked why the ads were put up in the first place, Clemas explained it was a "very last minute" decision which led to insufficient vetting of the group.
LUMO received about a dozen emails from people, alerting them to the group's history, which was when the company investigated further.
"Obviously we didn't realise where [Voices For Freedom] sat and its view on things.
"In hindsight, we should have vetted the organisation better, but it was only on a few screens for a couple of hours."
Deeks said a snap fundraising campaign was run following the organisation's Facebook page being taken down after an inquiry made by the NZ Herald to the social media giant recently.
Deeks claimed thousands of New Zealanders raised more than $70,000 in less than two days to book a week of advertising on more than 100 screens from Whangārei to Dunedin.
"On the other hand, we salute those courageous business owners standing up for free speech, regardless of whether or not they support the work we are doing."
Voices For Freedom launched in January and its support base on Facebook grew to more than 14,000 followers.
University of Auckland research fellow Kate Hannah, who leads The Disinformation Project at the Te Pūnaha Matatini Centre of Excellence agreed with Clemas' view that it was the group's past views, not the most recent adverts, which were more concerning.
"[Clemas] is correct that Voices For Freedom has been inflammatory in the past and has voiced views that most New Zealanders would find confronting."
While she believed the decision to remove the ads would contribute to a "healthier media landscape", Hannah said it would likely fortify some people's perspectives on the current state of free speech.
Another company, LHD media, published the group's ads on at least one billboard which appeared to be in Auckland.
In an email to the Herald, LHD media manager Ian Bailey understood the ads went up this week, but was unsure of when, where or how many billboards were used.
Bailey, who said he had no position on the ads, believed the only aspect of relevance was if the ad met Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) guidelines.
"We are not censors so happy to take advice from ASA."
He also said he had received more emails in support of the ads than against them.
ASA chief executive Hilary Souter confirmed one complaint relating to the ads had been received, which would be sent to the complaints board chair to decide whether it would be pursued.
Earlier this year, the ASA ruled six of eight claims made by Voices For Freedom in its leaflet, which was distributed nationally, had not been adequately substantiated and were misleading.