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Ministry of Truth — Big Brother Watch

SHUT DOWN THE
MINISTRY OF TRUTH

Big Brother Watch’s investigation revealed that secretive UK government ‘disinformation’ units have been spying on political dissent and suppressing free speech online.


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UPDATE: With your support we can bring an end to unaccountable government censorship and surveillance. Help us gear up to take the first ever legal action in Europe against a government's counter disinformation activity. Donate to our NEW CROWDFUNDER today.

MINISTRY OF TRUTH EXPOSED


Secretive Whitehall units have been monitoring government critics’ speech online – including MPs, academics, journalists, human rights campaigners and the public – under the guise of combatting ‘disinformation’.

Our report, Ministry of Truth: the secretive government units spying on your speech, revealed for the first time the truth behind the government’s five anti-fake news units and how their mission of ‘countering disinformation’ quickly turned into countering dissent across the UK.

Disinformation is a real problem - but it's also a term at risk of political exploitation by governments. In a democracy, politicians, the press and the public should all be free to scrutinise and criticise the government - without their speech being logged in government reports, wrongly smeared as 'misinformation', or suppressed or censored online.

Read the full report here or get the key findings here.

KEY FINDINGS

  • Green Party MP Caroline Lucas was included in an “Election Disinformation Report” for calling former Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, a liar.

  • Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Conservative MPs David Davis and Chris Green, high profile academics from the University of Oxford and University College London, and journalists including Peter Hitchens and Julia Hartley-Brewer, all had comments critical of the government analysed by anti-misinformation units.

  • Targeted speech included public criticism of the government’s pandemic response – particularly lockdown modelling and vaccine passports – as well as journalists’ criticism of the withdrawal from Afghanistan and MPs’ criticism of NATO

  • Soldiers from the Army’s 77th Brigade, tasked with “non-lethal psychological warfare”, collected tweets from British citizens posting about Covid-19 and passed them to central government - despite claiming operations were directed strictly overseas

  • A counter-misinformation unit pressured the Dept. of Health to attack newspapers for publishing articles analysing Covid-19 modelling that it feared would undermine compliance with pandemic restrictions.

  • MPs and journalists were featured in “vaccine hesitancy reports” for opposing vaccine passports

  • Contractors paid over £1m to trawl social media for perceived terms of service violations on selected topics and pass them to government officials

  • Counter-disinformation units use special relationships with social media companies to recommend content be removed

  • Front organisations aimed at minority communities were set up to spread government propaganda in the UK

COUNTER DISINFORMATION UNIT

This unit was established in its current form in March 2020 to “crack down” on “false coronavirus information online”. Government ministers have admitted that they’ve personally intervened in the CDU’s work to pursue the censorship of speech which they deem “inappropriate”.

Our investigation revealed that the unit monitored criticism of the government’s policies from MPs, journalists and even Big Brother Watch staff.

RAPID RESPONSE UNIT

This unit was created by the Conservative government to promote "fact-based public debate". But our report revealed it spent its time monitoring MPs opposed to vaccine passports like veteran Conservative MP, David Davis, and politicians who criticised a lack of support for businesses like Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham.

The unit even monitored academics who questioned the modelling used to justify the November 2020 lockdown such as Oxford University Professor Carl Heneghan. Columnist for the Mail on Sunday, Peter Hitchens, also appeared in two government counter disinformation reports. The RRU was shut down in August 2022.

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READ THE MILITARY SURVEILLANCE FILES

We’re dedicated to transparency and are committed to pursuing powerful campaigns. As a result of this, we have published a huge cache of documents relating to 77th Brigade & RAF intelligence support for Whitehall's "Ministry of Truth" that we’ve obtained over the course of our investigation via Freedom of Information requests.

View all of the files by clicking here or on the image below.

77th Brigade Whistleblower Interview

We revealed that the British Army's information warfare division, 77th Brigade, monitored ordinary members of the British public online.

In an exclusive interview with Big Brother Watch, a whistleblower from the unit told us that 77th Brigade was “monitoring the UK population” to gauge the public response to the Johnson government’s policies, which often included reports on British people sharing their fears around COVID-19. Publicly, the Ministry of Defence has always claimed that "77th Brigade do not, and have never, conducted any kind of action against British citizens".

Watch 77th Brigade whistleblower’s testimony:



What's your answer, Rishi Sunak?

During PMQs in February 2023, Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy asked Rishi Sunak to come clean on how much public money is spent on the Ministry of Truth. The Prime Minister is yet to answer and the clock is ticking...

34

Days

2

Hours

44

Minutes

30

Seconds

DID THEY SPY ON YOU?

We found that lots of members of the public were included in ‘counter-disinformation’ reports held by central government, simply for criticising the government. Anyone could be affected.

Did they spy on you? Find out if any of your social media posts have been monitored by the Ministry of Truth by exercising your legal right to request your data. It’s free, and takes about two minutes.

Step 1:

Copy and paste the templates below.

Edit each template to add:

  • any social media handles that belong to you, and what platform they relate to [this is not strictly necessary but will make it easier for the department to find your data and make sure you get the fullest response possible]

  • how you’re proving your identity (see step 2)

  • your name

Template:

Email Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT)

To: dataprotection@dsit.gov.uk

Dear Sir/Madam,

Subject Access Request


I am writing to request copies of all information held about me by DSIT as per Article 15 of the UK GDPR, dated or generated since March 20th 2020. I am particularly interested in any information held, sent or received by the National Security Online Information Team, formerly the Counter Disinformation Unit and ask that you specifically identify where any data about me has been held or processed by the NSOIT/CDU. Please also provide the purposes for processing [such as the context for any records held, such as titles or an explanation], the period the data will be held for and the details of any other parties my data will be shared with.

If the data held includes information that is publicly available, you must still disclose all of the data. As the Information Commissioner’s Office states, a subject access request affords me legal rights me to be provided with information about:

"what personal information an organisation holds about you;
how they are using it;
who they are sharing it with;
and where they got your data from."

Please provide details of why my personal data was held/processed, who it was shared with and details of any third parties it has been shared with. I expect this to contain the titles of any documents containing my personal data at an absolute minimum.

Therefore, if social media posts, articles, videos or tweets by or involving me have been held, used, shared or obtained by anyone within DSIT, I am also entitled to that information being disclosed.

For your convenience my [SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM] handle is: [HANDLE HERE]

DELETE AS APPROPRIATE: [I have attached a photo of my ID as verification] // [I am emailing from an institutional email address that verifiably belongs to me which should remove any "reasonable doubt" as to my identity, in line with Article 12 of the GDPR and the GDPR Ruling AEPD (Spain) - PS/00003/2021]

I would like all information returned to me via email please. If any further clarification is needed please do let me know, otherwise I look forward to your response within one calendar month.

Regards,

[Your name].



Step 2:

Consider how to prove you are who you say you are.

When releasing copies of your personal data, government departments should be confident that it is really you asking to access your data, to protect your privacy.

You could attach a photo of your ID, such as a passport or driving license, with your subject access request. If you don’t do this, the department may email you asking you do this, causing delays.

However, if there is a more proportionate and less invasive way of proving your identity, you don’t have to email your ID. If you can verify yourself by other means, such as contacting the department from an institutional/company email address [such as a university one] which clearly belongs to you - this should give the department confidence that you are who you say you are.

Do note that a webmail [such as Gmail] address may not be persuasive (unless the email address is published on a website/somewhere that can be verified as really belonging to you, and not an imposter) and there is a chance that a department may decide the evidence you provide is not sufficient and require ID anyway.

Step 3:

Send your subject access request to dataprotection@dsit.gov.uk

Step 4:

Wait for your responses, which should take no more than a month. If you’re comfortable sharing your results with us confidentially, it could really help our investigation - please get in touch with us at info@bigbrotherwatch.org.uk.

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