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Cabinet Office creates team to combat online disinformation on coronavirus


Mark Say Managing Editor

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The Cabinet Office has set up a special unit to clamp down on online misinformation about coronavirus.

It said the Rapid Response Unit has been working with social media companies to identity and block “false narratives”.

The team comprises representatives from government and the technology sector and is one of those feeding into the wide Counter Disinformation Cell led by the Department for Digital, Culture, media and Sport.

It has been working with disinformation specialists from civil society and academia, and has begun to detect up to 70 incidents per week, according to the Cabinet Office.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden (pictured) said: “We need people to follow expert medical advice and stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. It is vital that this message hits home and that misinformation and disinformation which undermines it is knocked down quickly.

“We’re working with social media companies, and I’ll be pressing them this week for further action to stem the spread of falsehoods and rumours which could cost lives.”

The Cabinet Office said Dowden will be contacting social media companies this week to discuss what other measures could be put in place to ensure that information about coronavirus on their platforms is accurate and honest.

It added that it is stepping up its efforts to share its assessments on coronavirus disinformation with international partners.

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.

Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0

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