Some social media users have threatened to boycott one of New Zealand’s largest companies but it’s standing by a statement backing a transgender activist, despite admitting the post did not reflect its position well.
During the weekend, Young New Zealander of the Year winner Shaneel Lal posted on Meta’s new social media platform, Threads.
Lal wrote: “Dear Threaders, Can we agree that we won’t tolerate TERFs on Threads. They’ve made the lives of trans people living hell on almost all platforms. Let’s not allow their hatred to poison this app too. Requested with love.”
Spark NZ replied: “Yes PLEASE, wholeheartedly co-signed”. The post used two emojis, including the transgender flag.
In a further post, the company said: “We stand by our response to @shaneellal on Threads. We will continue to support the rights of trans and non-binary people and we’re not interested in discussing this further.”
TERF translates to ‘transgender exclusionary radical feminist’ and is used to refer - sometimes in a derogatory way - to a person who opposes social and political measures intended to include transgender individuals or whose opinions on gender identity are considered hostile to transgender people.
Spark NZ said today its initial posts did not reflect its position well.
“We know there has been a lot of debate over the weekend, and we would like to provide more clarity on where we stand.
“We recognise there are wide-ranging views on how to create safe spaces in both the online and offline world, and we will continue to live up to our own values, and our belief in diversity and inclusion, while respecting each person’s right to their own view.
“We know our original posts did not reflect this well, and that’s something we will learn from.”
People who disagreed with Spark’s position, however, called for a boycott of the telco, with many advising customers to migrate to One NZ or 2degrees.
Lal, a Herald on Sunday columnist, asked One NZ and 2degrees to also clarify their positions on trans rights in separate Threads postings.
Both businesses reaffirmed their support for gender-diverse communities in their responses.
“We don’t want them either. Not welcome here. We stand with you, @sparknz and anyone else brave enough to call them out,” One NZ said in their reply.
“At 2degrees we’re all about fighting for fair and that includes supporting diversity in all its forms. We are proud to carry the Rainbow Tick, and we strive to make our workplaces and stores safe and inclusive no matter who you are, how you identify or who you love,” the 2degrees account replied.
When Spark clarified its position today, it said: “At Spark we believe the internet should be an inclusive space for all people, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or any other factor.”
Rachel Maher is an Auckland-based reporter who covers breaking news. She has worked for the Herald since 2022.