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Shadow unit of UK army secretly spied on citizens who criticised Govt’s Covid lockdown policies: Report

According to a source who worked for the military's covert 77th Brigade during the pandemic, the unit compiled dossiers on individuals with a substantial social media following who questioned the Covid lockdowns and mandates issued by the British government during the pandemic

During the Coronavirus pandemic, the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence extensively monitored the social media accounts of prominent personalities who were critical of the government’s Covid-19 measures, a source told the Daily Mail newspaper on Saturday. The claim contradicts the government’s repeated denials of any such surveillance.

Documents, substantiating the claims made by the source in the 77th Brigade, obtained and shared exclusively with the media outlet by the civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, disclosed the work of “government’s 5 anti-fake news”. It included the work of the Counter Disinformation Unit, based in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, and the Rapid Response Unit, based in the Cabinet Office.

“The investigation is based on scores of Freedom of Information requests, and the co-operation of dozens of people in public life who submitted Subject Access Requests to the government to demand copies of their data held by the so-called disinformation units,” the civil liberties group tweeted sharing details of the findings.

According to a source who worked for the military’s covert 77th Brigade during the pandemic, the unit compiled dossiers on individuals with a substantial social media following who questioned the Covid lockdowns and mandates issued by the British government. The dossier featured names like ex-Minister David Davis, who questioned the modeling behind alarming death toll predictions, as well as journalists Peter Hitchens and Toby Young. Their dissenting opinions were subsequently conveyed to 10 Downing Street.

The unit was entrusted with combating “disinformation” and “harmful narratives… from purported experts,” using artificial intelligence to scan social media for keywords like ‘ventilators’ that would have been of interest. Unwanted narratives were suppressed or eliminated, while government narratives were propagated.

The information was subsequently used to orchestrate the government’s responses to criticisms of policies such as the stay-at-home order when police were given the power to impose fines on people stepping out of their homes.

It also enabled Ministers to pressure social media platforms to remove posts disagreeing with the government’s stance and promote Government-approved content.

In response to the allegations, a government spokesman said, “Online disinformation is a serious threat to the UK, which is why during the pandemic we brought together expertise from across Government to monitor disinformation about Covid.”

“These units used publicly available data, including material shared on social media platforms, to assess UK disinformation trends and narratives. They did not target individuals or take any action that could impact anyone’s ability to discuss and debate issues freely”, the source said.

Silkie Carlo, the director of Big Brother Watch, a civil liberties advocacy group, meanwhile, told the Mail on Sunday, “Contrary to their stated aims, these Government truth units are secretive and harmful to our democracy. The Counter Disinformation Unit should be suspended immediately and subject to a full investigation.”

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OpIndia Staff
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