The man at the centre of rumours about a Covid-19 positive family that were condemned by the health minister has expressed regret after being tracked down.
After a malicious and untrue rumour about the origins of the latest Covid-19 outbreak did the rounds on social media, Dylan Reeve decided to track down its source.
He found the person who wrote the original Reddit post which was then used as the basis for the racist social media post.
Reeve, who writes about it in The Spinoff, says it didn't take long for him to find the original poster.
"I assumed it was a deliberate malicious troll, in which case those people usually make themselves hard to find.
"But it took me 15 minutes once I decided to have a good look," he told Jesse Mulligan.
Reeve got in touch with someone close to the Reddit poster.
"I reached out to someone close to him and said I'm trying to reach this person can you get him to call me back? And he did, quite soon after."
He was "regretful and contrite", Reeve says.
The man had taken fragments of rumours he had heard and put them together in a Reddit post.
"He put that out there in the public and then I think a couple of hours later, before the Facebook thing started circulating, he realised the nature of what he'd put out and tried to start rolling it back, but it was too late by then.
"Someone took that storyline and turned it into a much more fleshed out thing that played upon stereotypes and prejudices."
The man, who subsequently removed his Reddit post, was expecting the worst by the time Reeve tracked him down.
"I think he was expecting a call from a journalist or a cop I guess and wasn't sure which it was going to be. And wasn't sure what his future looked like."
The false rumour, which was strongly condemned by Health Minister Chris Hipkins at the weekend, was soon freely circulating on Facebook.
"He posted this thing in public which is probably not unlike what a lot of people might do, and it just got away from him.
"He was very regretful of what had happened, and it was that sort of situation where you've done a thing and you could see it going in a direction and there was nothing you could do to stop it."
Reeve was pretty sure the man was not a dangerous racist, he says.
"I could see from stuff he'd posted in the past that he was engaging in the internet in a pretty normal way.
"I did wonder if he'd deny everything or double down and none of that was the case - as soon as we started speaking he unloaded. There was obviously a lot of emotional baggage for him, he'd been holding on to this fear for a couple of days by that point."
Reeve decided to keep his identity a secret.
"The reason we opted not to name him, or to speak about specifically how I tracked him down, is that he's kind of not the point.
"The point was more about taking ownership of the things we put online and trying to think through the consequences of your speculations and rumour sharing."
It angered Reeve to see the way the rumour was being spread.
"So many people I saw sharing the post on Facebook were sharing it with things like 'it doesn't sound true but maybe it is' or 'I don't know if this is official but it's interesting' – and the message is: Don't, don't do that.
"Own the stuff you share, if you think a thing is right share that, own that, don't get all wishy-washy about 'I'm just open to other ideas'.
When he first saw the viral post on Facebook there was something which made him suspicious, Reeve says.
"It claimed that the Police and Department of Corrections were both searching for this woman. And I was immediately, that doesn't make sense for the Department of Corrections to be involved, it's nothing to do with them, no one has escaped from prison in this scenario they are nothing to do with managed isolation.
"Right from that point, I thought this stinks and that was what triggered me to know immediately that it was false."
Such rumours flourish in a vacuum, he says.
"You know at the moment we have these 1pm press conferences and afterwards we come to the journalists and they're all asking all sorts of questions because there's this information vacuum, we want all of the information.
"The Government doesn't want to say things publicly until they're pretty clear on this, so then it's just figure it out, fill in the vacuum, find the information, talk to people until you hear it, do all of those sorts of things."