To ask the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, whether the Counter Disinformation Unit has collected information on (a) sitting Members, (b) former Members, (c) political activists and (d) political organisations since the Unit's formation.
23 February 2023
This answer is a correction from the original answer.
The Counter Disinformation Unit (CDU) monitors narratives, trends and attempts to artificially manipulate the information environment online. It does not monitor individuals, however the content reviewed may incidentally include personal data, such as names and social media handles embedded within content published on publicly available sites. The CDU has a legal basis for collecting or processing any personal data as set out in Article 6(1)(e) of the UK GDPR, and the processing is necessary for us in our work as a public body and in the public interest.
Freedom of expression and the media are essential qualities of any functioning democracy; people must be allowed to discuss and debate issues freely. The CDU’s role is not to spot every instance of disinformation but where harmful content is identified in the course of the CDU’s work which may breach a platform Terms of Service, this may be referred to the relevant platform who will consider whether or not to take any action. The CDU’s work is consistent with the Government’s principles and values on protecting freedom of expression and promoting a free, open, and secure internet and as such no action is taken on any content originating from journalists or politicians.
Addressing the challenges of disinformation is a whole of the government effort. The Counter Disinformation Unit (CDU) is a team within the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) which works in close partnership with other government teams. Requirements are continually reviewed to ensure appropriate levels of resourcing, including surge capacity as needed. It would not be appropriate to comment on funding levels publicly as doing so would give malign actors insight into the scale of our capabilities.