The UK government worked with social media and A.I. firms to surveil and censor critics of coronavirus lockdowns, a report has claimed.
Officials within the UK government reportedly worked clandestinely with social media companies, such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter as well as A.I. firms to monitor critics of the lockdown regime, as well as to identify and ultimately censor speech criticising the draconian government policy.
Published by The Telegraph, the claims bear many similarities to the so-called “Twitter files”, which revealed how U.S. authorities worked hand-in-glove with social media firms to censor criticism of government COVID-19 policy.
According to the newspaper’s report, the UK government employed the so-called Counter-Disinformation Unit (CDU) — a Whitehall team originally set up to counter alleged disinfo during the 2019 European elections — to monitor social media posts challenging government lockdown policy with the aim of censoring the content.
To achieve this aim, the organisation reportedly worked closely with social media corporations as well as firms specialising in the use of Artificial Intelligence, the latter of which used the advanced technology to scour the net for messaging critical of government narratives on COVID-19.
One private firm that took part in this “state surveillance” operation was Yorkshire-based Logically, with the firm flagging numerous posts made by, according to The Telegraph, “respected scientists questioning lockdown or arguing against the mass vaccination of children against Covid-19”.
Many posts critical of government lockdown rules were said to have eventually been brought to the attention of social media firms by the CDU, which was given the status of a so-called “trusted flagger”, allowing them to fast-track censorship requests.
Although none of the social media companies involved were legally required to take content down just by virtue of it being flagged, The Telegraph speculates that firms may have been pressured to do so due to the fact the requests were coming from the government.
The CDU also reportedly monitored the activities of certain high-profile lockdown sceptics, including the likes of Oxford Academic Professor Carl Heneghan, who questioned government methodology for tracking COVID deaths.
Documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act by The Telegraph were reportedly heavily censored, with entire pages being blacked out, making it difficult to ascertain the entire scope of what was discussed between the invited groups.
Secretive meetings were also held by government officials with social media bosses and members of the BBC, with the topic reportedly being how best to stop the spread of so-called “misinformation” and “disinformation” regarding the pandemic.
Speaking on the meetings, however, a spokesman for the BBC has insisted that the publicly-funded broadcaster attended in an observer-only capacity, in what appears to be an attempt to distance the service from the censorship scandal.
This is not the first time the UK government has been accused of spying on lockdown critics, with previous reports indicating that the state deployed anti-terrorism units to censor anti-lockdown content.
Silkie Carlo, of the Big Brother Watch campaign group, who was ironically surveilled by the disinformation system, said: “The very concept of ‘wrong information’ dictated by a central authority is open to abuse and should be considered far more critically, lest we mirror Chinese-style censorship.”