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UK Lawmakers Call for Probe into Shadowy Disinformation Squad

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Some members of the British Parliament want an independent review to be done concerning the Counter Disinformation Unit (CDU), following an investigation into its activities by privacy and civil liberties campaigner Big Brother Watch.

CDU is identified by the group as, in addition only to security/intelligence services, operating in “one of the most opaque ways in government.” Big Brother Watch Director Silkie Carlo welcomed the committee’s initiative, but added that “the unit should be immediately suspended and subjected to a full investigation.”

In the recommendations to the government issued by the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee (DCMS), CDU is additionally suspected of being insufficiently transparent and accountable, with “the appropriateness of its reach” also questioned.

CDU was originally established in 2019 as part of DCMS to this past February get “transferred” to the newly formed Department for Science, Innovation and Technology.

The controversy around CDU has to do with the unit “working” with social media during the pandemic in a bid to censor opponents of Covid restrictions and vaccine mandates expressed by UK citizens.

Among those citizens were ex-ministers and elected officials, such as Conservative PM David Davis who was skeptical of what’s known as “modeling” concerning Covid – supposed to describe an epidemic using population movement data.

The way CDU and social platforms, the biggest ones like Google and Meta among them, are accused of collaborating on censorship included deletion of posts and hiding of accounts.

The Committee’s report, urging an independent review of CDU’s activities and strategy wants the government to present the results to the parliament within 12 months.

Previously, some other Conservative MPs, like Paul Scully, defended CDU, claiming that instead of targeting individuals it was monitoring “narratives and trends” around what it chose to consider misinformation and manipulation of online “information environment.”

It’s not clear how such incidents might happen if CDU’s activities are structured as Scully presented them – but he did add that “the content reviewed may incidentally include personal data.”

Still, this MP and former junior minister assured the public CDU is not “some big, shady intelligence unit.”

Perhaps it’s just small and shady, cynics might wonder.

Others who have spoken about what CDU does, like Sarah Connolly who actually headed the unit during the pandemic, earlier described “passing information over” to platforms with the hope of “the swift takedown” of content as its key purpose.

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