To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, whether the cross-Whitehall unit to counter disinformation on covid-19 is operating as of 6 January 2022; how many staff working as part of that unit there are in the (a) Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, (b) Home Office (c) Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, (d) Cabinet Office and (e) Ministry of Defence; and whether the number of staff in each team has increased or decreased since that unit was established in March 2020.
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, how many pieces of content the specialist units established to tackle misinformation on covid-19 have directly rebutted on social media in each month since those units were established.
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, how many pieces of potentially harmful content that breaches a platform's terms and conditions have been flagged to (a) Twitter, (b) Facebook, (c) YouTube, (d) Google and (e) other platforms since the establishment of units to tackle disinformation on covid-19; and what data those units hold on the steps taken by platforms in response those units.
The Cross-Whitehall Counter Disinformation Unit (CDU) was established on 5 March 2020, bringing together cross-government monitoring and analysis capabilities. As of 7 January 2022 the CDU is still fully operational.
Addressing the challenges of disinformation and misinformation is a whole of the government effort. The CDU is resourced full time and works in close partnership with cross-government teams. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the size of the team in DCMS has increased. Requirements are continually reviewed to ensure appropriate levels of resourcing, including surge capacity as needed.
When false narratives are identified, the CDU coordinates departments across Whitehall to deploy the appropriate response. This can include a direct rebuttal on social media, flagging content to platforms and ensuring public health campaigns are promoted through reliable sources.