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Covid-19: Tackling Disinformation

Volume 678: debated on Monday 6 July 2020

What steps the Government is taking to help tackle disinformation in the context of the covid-19 pandemic. (904217)

The MOD is supporting the Government’s campaign against covid-19 disinformation by providing specialist personnel in advisory roles. This work is led by the Cabinet Office and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. The Government are also working closely with social media platforms and academia to tackle this issue, and the Government’s focus remains on promoting factual public health advice and countering inaccurate content.

Disinformation by active promoting of falsehoods poses a significant threat, but so too does disinformation by omission. The National Security Council’s report on Russian interference in UK politics has been ready for publication since October 2019. To have trust and confidence in our democracy, the people of the United Kingdom need openness and transparency, so if the Government have nothing to hide, why do they continue to refuse to release this report?

As these are Defence questions, I am somewhat outside my portfolio in answering in this question, but the Secretary of State, who sits in the Cabinet, tells me that the security committee is not yet formed, which is why the report has not yet been published.

In many cases, disinformation about covid-19 can travel faster than the virus itself and pose just as great a risk to our security. Does the Minister agree with me and the majority of the public surveyed by the Open Knowledge Foundation that the Government need to urgently impose compulsory action on social media sites to clamp down on the spread of such misinformation?

Again, I am comfortable responding about disinformation, which the military has an active role in countering, but misinformation is the responsibility of my colleagues in the Cabinet Office and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.