Specialist units across the UK government are working to combat false and misleading narratives about coronavirus, ensuring the public has the right information to protect themselves and save lives.
The Rapid Response Unit, operating from within the Cabinet Office and No10, is tackling a range of harmful narratives online - from purported ‘experts’ issuing dangerous misinformation to criminal fraudsters running phishing scams. Up to 70 incidents a week, often false narratives containing multiple misleading claims, are being identified and resolved, says the UK Department for Digital Culture, Media & Sport. The successful ‘Don’t Feed the Beast’ public information campaign will also relaunch next week, to empower people to question what they read online.
When false narratives are identified, the government’s Rapid Response Unit coordinates with other departments to deploy the appropriate response, says a press release, which can include a direct rebuttal on social media, working with platforms to remove harmful content and ensuring public health campaigns are promoted through reliable sources.
The unit is one of the teams feeding into the wider Counter Disinformation Cell led by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, made up of experts from across government and in the tech sector. The Cell is engaging with social media platforms and with disinformation specialists from civil society and academia, to establish a comprehensive overview of the extent, scope and impact of disinformation related to coronavirus.
These measures follow recent advice from the National Cyber Security Centre, which revealed a range of attacks being perpetrated online by cyber criminals seeking to exploit coronavirus earlier this month, says the release. This included guidance on how to spot and deal with suspicious emails related to coronavirus, as well as mitigate and defend against malware and ransomware.