The authorities had a secret unit that labored with social media corporations to observe and stop speech that was vital of Covid lockdown insurance policies, it has been revealed.
The Counter-Disinformation Unit (CDU) was arrange by ministers to cope with people or teams who criticised insurance policies such because the mass vaccination of youngsters or lockdowns through the pandemic.
Critics of presidency insurance policies have been routinely monitored and an AI agency was used to go looking social media posts, in keeping with FOI and knowledge safety requests reported by The Daily Telegraph.
Campaigners have described the revelations as “truly chilling” and Jacob Rees-Mogg has known as for the Covid inquiry to research the claims, the newspaper mentioned.
“The inquiry clearly ought to investigate the oppressive methods used to override dissent,” he mentioned.
Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch, mentioned: “The very concept of ‘wrong information’ dictated by a central authority is open to abuse and should be considered far more critically, lest we mirror Chinese-style censorship.”
Large elements of the federal government’s work on disinformation throughout Covid continues to be redacted however the papers do reveal that Professor Carl Heneghan, an Oxford epidemiologist who has suggested Boris Johnson, was monitored by disinformation models.
Dr Alexandre de Figueiredo, a analysis fellow on the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Molly Kinsgley who arrange a marketing campaign to maintain faculties open through the pandemic and spoke out in opposition to facemasks, had their exercise monitored.
The CDU continues to be working from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and is ready to get content material fast-tracked for doable moderation or deletion by social media companies equivalent to Facebook and Twitter.
It was began in 2019 to principally cope with the European elections however shifted focus to the pandemic.
Alongside this, the federal government additionally ran a Counter-Disinformation Policy Forum which introduced collectively tech giants equivalent to Facebook and Google to debate find out how to cope with Covid disinformation.
The revelations come as Boris Johnson mentioned he’ll ship “all unredacted WhatsApps” on to the Covid-19 inquiry forward of a authorized conflict between the probe and the Cabinet Office over entry to the messages.
The former prime minister informed the inquiry’s chairwoman Baroness Hallett he would “like to do the same” with messages which can be on an outdated cell phone he stopped utilizing because of safety considerations.
In different developments, ministers are making ready for a high-profile authorized battle with the inquiry as the federal government seeks to problem the request for Mr Johnson’s unredacted WhatsApp messages and notebooks to be submitted.