NEWS30 March 2020

Government combats Covid-19 misinformation

Covid-19 News Public Sector UK

UK – The government has established specialist units to crack down on the spread of false coronavirus information online.


The Rapid Response Unit, operating from within the Cabinet Office and No.10, has been set up to tackle a range of harmful narratives online – from supposed ‘experts’ issuing dangerous misinformation to criminal fraudsters running phishing scams.

Up to 70 incidents a week are being identified and resolved. The government is going to relaunch its ‘Don’t Feed the Beast’ public information campaign next week, to encourage people to question what they read online.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: "We need people to follow expert medical advice and stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. It is vital that this message hits home and that misinformation and disinformation which undermines it is knocked down quickly.

"We’re working with social media companies, and I’ll be pressing them this week for further action to stem the spread of falsehoods and rumours which could cost lives."

Its responses include a direct rebuttal on social media, working with platforms to remove harmful content and ensuring public health campaigns are promoted through reliable sources.

The unit is one of the teams feeding into the wider Counter Disinformation Cell led by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, made up of experts from across government and in the tech sector.

Penny Mordaunt, Paymaster General said: "Holding your breath for 10 seconds is not a test for coronavirus and gargling water for 15 seconds is not a cure – this is the kind of false advice we have seen coming from sources claiming to be medical experts.

"That is why government communicators are working in tandem with health bodies to promote official medical advice, rebut false narratives and clamp down on criminals seeking to exploit public concern during this pandemic."