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UK Government Used Army “PsyOps” Division To Monitor Citizens And Then Lied About It

Published: May 13, 2024 | Print Friendly and PDF
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British military officials also spread misinformation to the US, treated citizen-victims of their spying as foreigners, and considered embedding government censors within social media companies

Gen. Nick Carter, former Chief of Defense Staff (2018-2021) (left); Boris Johnson, former Prime Minister; Ben Wallace, former Minister of Defense (right) (Getty Images)

In January 2021, the UK government said that members of its infamous “77th Brigade do not, and have never, conducted any kind of action against British citizens.”

But it did. And thus it lied.

In 2022, the NGO I work for, Big Brother Watch, began investigating the UK government's efforts to monitor social media posts and demand their censorship by the platforms. Over the next few months, we filed dozens of Freedom of Information requests, including for information on the 77th Brigade.

In other words, we discovered that the UK government had, in the name of fighting misinformation, spread disinformation.

The Army unit was not just involved in “countering misinformation,” it led the effort. The 77th Brigade monitored social media platforms throughout 2020 and worked alongside soldiers from the Royal Air Force (RAF).

The British Ministry of Defense (MoD) did not respond to requests to comment for this piece.

MoD created the 77th Brigade in 2015 to serve as its “information warfare” or “psychological operations” unit. The 77th Brigade would consist of “a new generation of ‘Facebook warriors’ who will wage complex and covert information and subversion campaigns,” reported the Financial Times in 2015.

When the Army created the 77th Brigade, its leaders told British Members of Parliament (MPs) that its job was to “build stability overseas,” not spy on citizens at home.

How did the UK military evade the ban on spying on UK citizens? A whistleblower from the 77th Brigade, who spoke to Big Brother Watch on condition of anonymity, said it did so by pretending that the British citizens who UK soldiers were spying upon could, perhaps, be foreigners

 “To skirt the clear legal issues with a military unit monitoring domestic dissent,” the whistleblower told us, “the leading view was that unless a profile explicitly stated their real name and nationality, which is, of course, vanishingly rare, they could be a foreign agent and were fair game to flag up.”

By “flag up,” the whistleblower referred to the process by which UK government officials sent content to social media companies that they thought should be censored.

As in the United States, UK government officials insist that the flagging of social media content by officials was legal because the officials were just making suggestions, not demanding censorship.

But Facebook’s oversight board said in 2022 that government demands for censorship are hard to ignore.

And during a 2022 House of Commons debate on the UK’s Orwellian-titled “Online Safety Act,” then-Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries told MPs that the CDU was in “daily” contact with social media firms as part of work to remove content.

There are now many instances where social media companies said they only censored because the US government had asked them to. Just last week, a US Congressman revealed that, on July 16, 2021, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg texted his colleagues and noted that “the [Biden] WH put pressure on us to censor the lab leak theory…”

Now, exclusive documents obtained by Big Brother Watch and revealed for the first time here show that UK government officials labeled accurate reporting from a Guardian journalist, Jennifer Rankin, that the UK would not take part in the EU’s PPE procurement scheme as “malinformation.”

And newly obtained minutes from the UK government’s “Disinformation Board” show that senior UK officials considered embedding civil servants in social media companies. Was that also the intention of the Biden Administration’s near-identically named “Disinformation Governance Board” of the Department of Homeland Security?

What exactly happened in the UK? Why did the UK military violate its promise not to spy on the British people?

Read More...

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