UK government poised to launch ‘rapid response’ unit to combat fake news

The team will be tasked with reclaiming “a fact-based public debate”

Theresa May’s government is set to respond to the scourge of fake news with the creation of a “rapid response social media capability” in Whitehall itself.

Based in the Cabinet Office, the team will be tasked with dealing “quickly with disinformation” and reclaiming “a fact-based public debate”.

It follows the spread of factually inaccurate news that has positioned the government and Conservatives in a negative light, such as a 2017 story that reported MPs voted that animals do not feel pain or emotions.

Alex Aiken, executive director of the Government Communication Service (GSC), announced the creation of the unit in an article for PR Week.

He said: “We are seeing changes in the way information is being processed and shared – a tech savvy but disparate audience hungry for information and influenced by a small number of dominant opinion formers in the public eye.

“The real test for government communications is being nimble enough to respond to the many challenges thrown at it while remaining a reliable source of information.”

The new team was named as one of Aiken’s “professional challenges” for the GCS in 2018. The list also included plans to “raise standards by ending opaque digital marketing, with a focus on value, safety and transparency, creating greater accountability for the Government”.

The exec added that the latter course of action “will be at the heart of the new Media Buying Contract” that will be implemented “by the end of the year”.

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