A cross-party group of MPs have said that the UK government’s Counter Disinformation Unit, which was used to monitor lockdown critics, should be suspended and subject to a “full investigation.”
Conservative MP David Davis, Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy and Green Party leader Caroline Lucas have written to Michelle Donelan, the secretary of state for Digital, Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), regarding the Counter Disinformation Unit (CDU).
In a letter in the Telegraph, Mrs. Lucas said that the Counter Disinformation Unit is “not fit for purpose and should be subject to a full investigation.”
“That’s why today, I have joined David Davis MP in writing to the minister in charge of the CDU, Michelle Donelan, to call on her to suspend the CDU immediately and commission an independent review of its work, in order to ensure that the rights to freedom of expression and privacy are protected,” she said.
“We cannot tolerate new forms of surveillance and creeping censorship to be added to this Orwellian mire,” she added.
In January, documents obtained by the civil liberties group Big Brother Watch revealed that Conservative MPs and journalists had warranted attention from the government’s Counter Disinformation Unit (CDU).
Unlike lockdown and MRNA critics, Mrs. Lucas said that she had been logged in government “disinformation” reports for criticising the “government’s preparedness for the pandemic” as well as for calling for “fair access to vaccines.”
Big Brother Watch
In January, Westminster confirmed that it had monitored lockdown critics, including Conservative MPs and journalists, on social media platforms via its disinformation units.
Well-known figures included Conservative MP David Davis, Lockdown Sceptics founder Toby Young, talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer, and Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens.
HART is a group that was set up with doctors, academics, scientists, and more to share concerns about policy and guidance recommendations relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Headmaster Mike Fairclough also found out this year that he had his social media posts monitored by the government disinformation unit for questioning the effects of lockdown and masking on children as well as the mRNA vaccine rollout.
In August, Susannah Storey, director general for digital, technology and telecoms at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, in a disclosure to the COVID-19 inquiry, said that the CDU had worked with the “UK intelligence community.”
The CDU was part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, which leads the UK government’s operational response to “domestic disinformation threats online.” In February 2023 it moved to the Department of Science, Innovation & Technology.
During the pandemic, the government used different units, including the CDU, the Rapid Response Unit (RRU), and the Government Information Cell. Each had roles in “tackling harmful narratives online,” and monitoring and flagging “disinformation” content to social media companies.
The RRU was disbanded in August 2022.
The CDU is focused “on helping the government understand online disinformation narratives and understand attempts to artificially manipulate the information environment.”
The British Army’s information warfare machine, the 77th, which has conducted operations against both the Taliban and al-Qaeda, collated tweets from British citizens about COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic, passing them to the Cabinet Office, though it is understood that this ended by late 2021.
The Epoch Times contacted DSIT for a response.
A DSIT government spokesperson previously told The Epoch Times that “neither the RRU nor the CDU have ever targeted or focused on individuals, or compiled any data on them.”
“Individuals were only ever referenced in much broader coverage reports which used publicly available media to summarise the public views on certain policies or identify potential disinformation trends,” he added.