Secretive. Sinister. Wrong. We need YOU to join the challenge against the UK Government's Counter "Disinformation" Unit.
We need YOU!
We're crowdfunding to grow the greatest possible campaign to hold the Counter "Disinformation" Unit accountable - and now we're gearing up to take the first ever legal action in Europe against a government's counter disinformation activity.
Disinformation is a real problem - but it's also a term at risk of political exploitation by governments.
Our investigation has uncovered that a secretive UK government Counter "Disinformation” Unit has been monitoring and recording opposition to government policies on social media - sweeping up MPs, journalists, leading academics, campaigners and members of the public in secret "disinformation reports".
The Unit even flags lawful speech to the social media companies to be suppressed or censored.
Whilst many thought the Counter Disinformation Unit was targeting things like Russian disinformation, we've found the Unit has suffered serious mission creep and has turned inwards, putting domestic dissent in its crosshairs and serving the interests of those with power rather than the public.
What was spied on?
We've obtained evidence that people pointing out politicians' lies, criticising UK foreign policy or scrutinising the government's Covid management have all been flagged in "disinformation" reports.
This even includes MPs like Conservative David Davis and Labour's Bell Ribeiro-Addy.
It includes world-leading scientists like the head of Oxford University's Centre for Evidence Based Medicine Professor Carl Heneghan, and vaccine confidence expert Dr Alex de Figueiredo.
It includes campaigners like Big Brother Watch members of staff, and people campaigning for a "People's Vaccine".
It includes articles by the Guardian, Telegraph, Mail, Independent and openDemocracy, and journalists and commentators like Peter Hitchens and Julia Hartley-Brewer.
NONE of these posts contained any "disinformation" whatsoever.
Why we need to STOP this
In a democracy, politicians, the press and the public should all be free to scrutinise and criticise the government - without their speech being logged in government reports, wrongly smeared as 'misinformation', or suppressed or censored online.
The Counter Disinformation Unit won't tell us how many posts they've referred for online censorship, who defines 'disinformation', what topics they monitor or even how many staff they have. They operate with an extremely high level of secrecy - that needs to change.
Our campaign - next steps
We've instructed a legal team and are crowdfunding to take legal action to stop the government’s Counter Disinformation Unit interfering with our rights to free speech and privacy. This could be really costly, intensive work – and we can only do it with your support.
We’re also extending our investigation so that we can find and publish more revelations about what this Unit is doing behind closed doors and whose speech is affected.
We also need to build the biggest possible campaign in parliament and the press to ensure the Unit is under scrutiny from all angles. They simply cannot keep avoiding our questions.
It’s important, because our democracy is at stake. We have to win this campaign – and if we do, it will not only protect us in the UK, but it will set an important precedent against governments abusing counter-disinformation powers internationally.
Our campaign - so far
We published our groundbreaking report, Ministry of Truth: the secretive government units spying on your speech, in January 2023. It blew the lid off the so-called counter-misinformation units operating in the government and even the British army, secretly logging criticism of the government.
We're achieving front page news coverage and major articles in the Telegraph, Mail on Sunday and Guardian as well as opinion pieces and editorial comment pieces. We also reached hundreds of thousands of people online, appearing on high profile videos and podcasts.
Our investigation has been referenced in parliamentary committees and even at Prime Minister's question time.
We're making a huge impact - and now we need to win!
Big Brother Watch is a civil liberties and privacy campaigning organisation, fighting for a free future. We’re determined to reclaim our privacy and defend freedoms at this time of enormous technological change.
We’re a fiercely independent, non-partisan and non-profit group who work to roll back the surveillance state and protect rights in parliament, the media or the courts if we have to. We publish unique investigations and pursue powerful public campaigns. We work relentlessly to inform, amplify and empower the public voice so we can collectively reclaim our privacy, defend our civil liberties and protect freedoms for the future.