Theresa May is creating a new national security unit to counter supposed fake news and disinformation spread by Russia and other foreign powers, Downing Street has announced.
The Prime Minister's official spokesman said the new national security communications unit would build on existing capabilities and would be tasked with combating disinformation by state actors and others. The spokesman said:
We are living in an era of fake news and competing narratives. The government will respond with more and better use of national security communications to tackle these interconnected, complex challenges.
To do this we will build on existing capabilities by creating a dedicated national security communications unit. This will be tasked with combating disinformation by state actors and others.
The new unit has already been dubbed the Ministry of Truth.
A committee of MPs has claimed that the government is not taking the urgent action needed to protect democracy from fake news on Facebook and other social media.
The culture committee wants a crackdown on the manipulation of personal data, the spread of disinformation and Russian interference in elections. Tory MP Damian Collins, who chairs the committee, says he is disappointed by the response to its
latest report. Collins has accused ministers of making excuses to further delay desperately needed announcements on the ongoing issues of harmful and misleading content being spread through social media.
When the Digital Culture Media and Sport Committee issued its interim report on fake news in July it claimed that the UK faced a democratic crisis founded on the manipulation of personal data.
The MPs called for new powers for the Electoral Commission - including bigger fines - and new regulation of social media firms. But of the 42 recommendations in its interim report, the committee says only three have been accepted by the
government, in its official response, published last week.
The committee has backed calls from the Electoral Commission to force social media advertisers to publish an imprint on political ads to show who had paid for them, to increase transparency. Collins also criticised the government's continued
insistence that there was no evidence of Russian interference in UK elections.
Collins said he would be raising this and other issues with Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright, when he appears before the committee on Wednesday.
The likes of Facebook and Twitter should fund the creation of a new UK watchdog to internet censor to police fake news, censorship campaigners have claimed.
Sounding like a religious morality campaign, the LSE Commission on Truth, Trust and Technology , a group made up of MPs, academics and industry, also proposed the Government should scrap plans to hand fresh powers to existing cesnors such
as Ofcom and the Information Commissioner.
The campaigners argue for the creation a new body to monitor the effectiveness of technology companies' self regulation. The body, which would be called the Independent Platform Agency, would provide a permanent forum for monitoring and
cesnorsing the behaviour of online sites and produce an annual review of the state of disinformation, the group said.
Damian Tambini, adviser to the LSE commission and associate professor in LSE's department of media and communications, claimed:
Parliament, led by the Government, must take action to ensure that we have the information and institutions we need to respond to the information crisis. If we fail to build transparency and trust through independent institutions we could see
the creeping securitisation of our media system.