Secret documents and whistleblowers now testify to how the British Army’s 77th Brigade, on behalf of the government, secretly spied on and mapped British citizens who criticised repressive covid policies.
The documents were obtained by the civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, which exclusively shared the information with the Daily Mail. It reveals, among other things, that the military targeted journalists and politicians who questioned the British government’s lockdown policy.
The military established files on former conservative minister David Davis because he had questioned the models used to produce the calculations predicting the covid death rate. Investigative journalists Peter Hitchens and Toby Young were identified because they too questioned the official narrative.
A whistleblower who worked for the brigade during the lockdowns confirms that they engaged in spying on the population and mapping the social media accounts of British citizens – something that the British Ministry of Defence has long denied.
Documents seen by the newspaper show that the brigade was tasked with “combating disinformation and malicious narratives” and searched Britons’ accounts for potentially interesting keywords, which were screen captured and collated and then handed over to government officials.
“The information was then used to orchestrate the government’s response to criticism of policy decisions such as the curfew, when police were given the power to issue fines and break up gatherings,” it writes.
The British government also allegedly used the information to pressure social media platforms to delete posts and instead advance narratives approved by them.
– It is quite clear that our activities resulted in surveillance of the British population … surveillance of social media posts by ordinary, frightened people. These posts did not contain information that was untrue or collusive – it was simply fear,” the whistleblower notes.
– ‘It’s downright outrageous that people who question the government’s policies were subjected to secret surveillance,‘ thunders David Davis, who was previously in charge of Britain’s exit from the EU.
Daily Mail journalist Peter Hitchens was mapped by the military after sharing an article critical of the covid repression, based on data from the UK’s Public Health Agency. For this, he was classed as someone who wanted to “promote an anti-lockdown agenda and influence the House of Commons vote”. Hitchens himself believes that he was shadow-banned at the request of those in power and that his views suddenly dropped significantly.
– The most astonishing thing about the covid-19 panic was how many attacks the state managed to make on fundamental freedoms without anyone even caring, let alone protesting. Now is the time to demand a full and vigorous investigation into the dark material Big Brother Watch has bravely uncovered, he comments.
The whistleblower spoken to by the paper notes that the government “seemed more interested in protecting the success of its policies than exposing possible foreign interference”.
– I regret that I was part of it. The work I did should never have been done.
– We would take screenshots of tweets from people expressing displeasure with the UK government’s actions against covid. The project manager would then collect these screenshots and send them to the government office. Feedback from the Cabinet Office would give us directives on what to look for the next day,” he continues.
Silkie Carlo of Big Brother Watch says the military’s mapping of British anti-regime academics, journalists and politicians shows that terminology such as “false information” is ripe for those in power to abuse in an attempt to control online narratives.
– Contrary to their stated aims, government ‘truth units’ are secretive and directly damaging to our democracy.
Since the revelation, the British government has admitted to using military units to target citizens critical of the lockdown policy. However, it claims that “online disinformation is a serious threat to the UK” and that the military “did not target individuals or act in a way that could affect anyone’s ability to freely discuss or debate issues”.