The UK government has created a new cyber team in an effort to crack down on the spread of fake news regarding the recent coronavirus outbreak on social media platforms.
The new unit is compromised of members from departments across Whitehall with the aim of assessing the potential extent, scope and impact of fake news. The cyber team will also be responsible for identifying and responding to disinformation about the novel coronavirus.
Additionally, the unit will hold talks with social media companies to learn more about how they monitor interference and limit the spread of disinformation on their platforms.
According to the government, it will focus primarily on deliberate attempts to create and spread false or manipulated information with the intention to mislead audiences as opposed to just misinformation which can occur when false information is spread inadvertently. Strategic communications experts have also been hired by UK officials in order to handle the government’s response to the ongoing crisis.
Fighting fake news
Secretary of state for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden explained that protecting the country from misinformation and digital interference is a top priority for the government, saying:
“Defending the country from misinformation and digital interference is a top priority. As part of our ongoing work to tackle these threats we have brought together expert teams to make sure we can respond effectively should these threats be identified in relation to the spread of Covid-19.”
The government is also set to appoint Ofcom as the new online harms regulator and this will give it the power to issue fines to tech firms that fail to protect their users from fake news online.
The government’s creation of a new cyber team to fight fake news comes just after Facebook announced new measures to protect its users from hoaxes and other misinformation in their News Feeds.