Defence Secretary Admits 77th Brigade Tasked to “UK Disinformation”

Big Brother Watch Team / February 2, 2023


  • Ben Wallace announces probe into claims by a 77th Brigade whistleblower that the military unit had covertly spied on Brits posting about Covid on social media
  • Officials previously claimed operations had “never conducted any kind of action against British citizens”
  • But in a parliamentary statement, Ben Wallace this week admitted the 77th Brigade scours social media to “assess UK disinformation”
  • openDemocracy reveals another government “misinformation” unit logged journalists who tweeted about their clearing house exposé

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has told parliament that the secretive 77th Brigade of the British Army “uses (…) material shared on social media platforms to assess UK disinformation trends.”1

The statement appears to contradict earlier claims by the British Army, made in reference to the public disclosure of their Covid-focused “counter-disinformation” work, that the 77th Brigade “do not, and have never, conducted any kind of action against British citizens”2 and that “all work is internationally focused.”3

Wallace’s admission that military power was assigned to asses UK disinformation raises serious questions about the accuracy of previous official statements on the 77th Brigade’s work, and the appropriateness of using military power designed for “opposing forced and adversaries”4 on Britons’ social media.

The whistleblower, who spoke exclusively to civil liberties group Big Brother Watch and the Mail on Sunday, claimed that Brits were routinely monitored and flagged by the 77th Brigade as there were no safeguards in place to stop millions of our social media posts being scanned during their low-skilled disinformation searches.

Whilst admitting that the 77th Brigade analyses UK disinformation, the Defence Secretary announced a probe into the whistleblower’s claims about the types of social media posts the secretive army unit flags to government, saying the Brigade “is not to be involved in regulating, policing or even reporting opinion that it may or may not agree with.”5 Responding to a call for a review from senior Conservative MP David Davis, whose social media posts had been collated by other government “counter-disinformation” units during the pandemic despite factual accuracy, Mr Wallace replied, “I have already instructed that we not only look into the story but check that the instructions that I issued after a visit were carried out.”6 It is not clear what visit he was referring to.

The controversy follows a report by Big Brother Watch published on Sunday, titled Ministry of Truth: the secretive government units spying on your speech, which revealed the hidden activity of a network of so-called “counter-disinformation” units in government that monitored and recorded views critical of the government’s handling of the pandemic and in some cases flagged posts to social media companies for removal. Big Brother Watch’s investigation identified a number of MPs, journalists, top academics and campaigners whose social media posts had been monitored and logged in secret reports.

Since the report was published, openDemocracy has revealed that the Cabinet Office’s counter-misinformation unit, the Rapid Response Unit, has also monitored its work, recording the “journalists and organisations” that had “tweeted or retweeted” their investigation into the Cabinet Office’s mishandling of Freedom of Information requests – which, ironically, had involved the Cabinet Office recording and sharing the names of journalists requesting government documents, in a breach of FOI rules.7 The investigation led to a parliamentary inquiry and forced the government to commit to reforms.

Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch, said:

“It is deeply concerning that the Defence Secretary appeared to suggest that military power has been intentionally deployed towards social media users in the UK.

“His statement would suggest that the whistleblower’s claims do not just reveal the wrongdoing of a military unit gone rogue, but that they reveal the intentional assignment of the British Army to assess lawful speech within Britain, which appears to be condoned at the highest level.

“Any misuse of military resources designed for foreign adversaries on our own soil would be Orwellian in the extreme and absolutely scandalous, particularly at a time when our armed forces’ resources are depleted.

“It is vital that the 77th Brigade’s digital activities in the UK are urgently investigated.”


  • Spokespeople are available for interview. Please contact Big Brother Watch’s 24/7 press phone on 07730439257 or email
  • A copy of the full report, ‘Ministry of Truth: the secretive government units spying on your speech’, can be found here; the press release is here
  • The 77th Brigade whistleblower’s full testimony is available pp.66-68 of the report. A video interview with the whistleblower is on our YouTube channel here.

  3.; p.61
  6. Ibid.