Government Spent Millions Spying on Lockdown Sceptics

The Mail on Sunday previewed some of the excesses of the government’s efforts to combat disinformation contained in a report from Big Brother Watch. They even called in the military.

The revelations shed light on the state’s free speech interventions – including the Army’s shadowy 77th Brigade, tasked with combatting disinformation. Instead of focussing on propaganda coming from Russia or China, the government kept tabs on its critics and those sceptical of lockdowns. David Davis, Peter Hitchens and Julia Hartley-Brewer were amongst those monitored – hardly pressing threats to national security.

A whistleblower from the 77th Brigade quoted in the report added:

“It was about domestic perception, not national security. By being so fixed on the wrong targets, 77x became more akin to a tool for bad information than an antidote to it… It seemed to me that the government geared the counter-disinformation operation not to serving and protecting citizens, but to serving their own careers and influence.”

Peter Hitchens had warned about censorship of his online content. It seems he may have had a point…

There are at least four further Whitehall arms dedicated to social media monitoring:

  • The Cabinet Office’s Rapid Response Unit (RRU) – for tackling ‘harmful narratives’ during the pandemic.
  • The Counter Disinformation Unit (CDU) in DCMS – responsible for flagging disinformation to social media giants. Big Brother Watch adds they deploy a “very loose” use of the term.
  • The Government Information Cell (GIC) in the FCDO – established in response to Russian disinformation in the UK and abroad.
  • The Intelligence and Communications Unit (RICU) in the Home Office – pushes official lines to support counter-extremism.

All of this state social media spying doesn’t come cheap. Big Brother Watch identified £2.3 million in contracts for the CDU, £2.5 million in contracts and £1.3 million in staffing for the RRU and an annual budget of over £6 million for the Intelligence and Communications Unit. This doesn’t include a staggering £65,000,000 in RICU contracts for social media monitoring and PR campaigns…

The full report is available here. Co-conspirators can also find out if they’re being spied on using this handy template.

mdi-timer 30 January 2023 @ 14:00 30 Jan 2023 @ 14:00 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Gove Invites Julia Around to Check Out his Knitwear

Hubba hubba…

mdi-timer 24 November 2022 @ 10:20 24 Nov 2022 @ 10:20 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Gove Asked Seven Times How Many People Bonkers New “Buy a House on Benefits” Housing Policy will Help

Julia Hartley-Brewer skewered Gove this morning as he was asked seven times to specify how many people his new “Buy a House on Benefits” housing policy will help. Given the policy involves allowing people on benefits to put them towards paying a mortgage, the answer will be tiny. Gove failed to answer all seven times, eventually calling it a “silly question”. Not as stupid as the policy…

Guido has had a quick ring round and one Downing Street source – off the record – described it as “a nonsesensical gimmick”, a think-tanker usually sympathetic to the government described the policy as “insane”. The problems with the housing mortgage market will not be solved by just lowering credit worthiness criteria for borrowers, they will be solved by building more houses, something the government under threat of losing seats to cynical LibDems in the places where people want to live, is failing to promote. The problems of low income earners not earning enough are not helped by the government subsidising low paying employers via the welfare system or putting up the taxes of low earners. More big spending by big government is not the solution…

mdi-timer 9 June 2022 @ 10:01 9 Jun 2022 @ 10:01 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Hartley-Brewer Versus Question Time Climate Activist: “You’re Part of the Problem!”

One of the more entertaining episodes of Question Time last night, with Julia Hartley-Brewer going head-to-head with a climate activist sat in the audience over net zero:

JHB: “You’re part of the problem madam. This move to net zero in a randomly plucked date in 2050, which by the way was decided in Parliament after a 90 minute debate, I’ve spent longer choosing socks than that for goodness sake…

[…]

Activist: “It’s not about a date, it’s about a reduction in global atmospheric carbon emissions to reduce a global temperature rise.”

JHB: “We’re not going to hit it but if we did what would it achieve?” 

Activist: “It will stop ecosystems collapsing.”

Hartley-Brewer also pulled no punches when taking aim at No.10 over partygate, once again calling for Boris to resign…

Clearly had her Weetabix this week

mdi-timer 1 April 2022 @ 10:39 1 Apr 2022 @ 10:39 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Wes Streeting Successfully Defines Men & Women

An astonishing outburst of common sense from Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting this morning as he manages to answer Julia Hartley-Brewer’s sex questioning with a straightforward response:

“Men have penises, women have vaginas, here ends my biology lesson. That doesn’t mean, by the way, there aren’t people who transition to other genders because they experience gender dysphoria and we should acknowledge that and conduct the debate in a way that respects those people’s rights and dignity.”

This rare straightforward response prompted a round of applause from Julia who lauded him for being able to answer the question, after which Streeting joked that would end his “lefty street cred”. On cue Owen Jones is already complaining that Streeting gave an answer “which led a hard right shock jock to applaud him, and leaves trans women and men even more exposed to being misgendered”. Wes also got that right…

mdi-timer 30 March 2022 @ 10:51 30 Mar 2022 @ 10:51 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Julia Hartley-Brewer Steals the Show on Politics Live

Julia Hartley-Brewer providing one of the most entertaining Politics Live appearances in a while today, taking LibDem Layla Moran to town over Covid hypocrisy and Brexit without breaking a sweat. Guido particularly enjoyed Moran claiming schools “never closed” during the lockdowns, and insisting she “is still wearing a mask” as she sat barefaced shoulder to shoulder with her fellow panelists. Julia’s resigned looks to the camera made it even better… 

mdi-timer 29 March 2022 @ 13:43 29 Mar 2022 @ 13:43 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
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