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UK Disinformation Unit Minutes Reveal Consideration of Placing Government Employees Inside Social Media Companies

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Recently released minutes from the UK government’s Counter Disinformation Unit (CDU) governing board, the Disinformation Board, provide further evidence of the authorities’ direct involvement in monitoring online speech during the pandemic but also flagging it for removal.

But even this wasn’t enough for CDU, which in 2023, after several years of criticism and scrutiny by some media and privacy groups, got rebranded as the National Security Online Information Team (NSOIT).

One of the moves considered by top UK officials was to “embed” civil servants in companies running social platforms, and it remains unclear if this was in fact done, writes Big Brother Watch’s Jake Hurfurt for Public.

CDU was only one building block in the UK’s Covid-era censorship effort; several military units were enlisted to participate as well, most notably and controversially the 77th Brigade, whose job is supposed to be spreading misinformation, and in general, finding its “psyops” targets abroad, not at home.

NSOIT (CDU) also states that it is “countering disinformation and hostile state narratives.” But these and several other outfits, as well as private contractors hired by the government, were tasked with surveillance of British citizens and suppression of those seen as “Covid measures dissenters.”

And so, what scores of freedom of information requests have since revealed is that they went not after disinformation-spreading “foreign adversary” – but ordinary British citizens, medical professionals, journalists, and even politicians who were engaging in legitimate, albeit critical of the government, speech.

Regarding the lengths to which the UK was prepared to go – specifically if officials actually got “embedded” in social media companies – this is unclear to this day thanks to the government’s refusal to provide access to reports compiled by Logically, a private company.

Logically made millions from contracts with the British military, Hurfurt notes. Completing the picture of the web of sometimes loosely, other times tightly inter-connected entities that work hard to censor online speech, he adds:

“(Logically) has a large US presence and is headed by US ex-intelligence officer Brian Murphy, who worked at the Department for Homeland Security (DHS).”

Meanwhile, the UK government explains its refusal to shed light on the question of whether or not its officials were directly involved with social media companies as fears those reports “would reveal its capabilities to hostile actors.”

If you’re tired of censorship and surveillance, join Reclaim The Net.

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