The UK government is not a fan of free speech and its Counter Disinformation Unit (CDU), which urged social media companies to censor Covid dissent from UK citizens, is one of many recent examples of the ways it tries to chill the public’s speech.
But recently released witness statements have revealed that the government’s eagerness to crack down on speech is so great that it doesn’t even restrict its censorship operations to domestic government agencies. Instead, it lets representatives from foreign governments, who weren’t elected by UK citizens, give feedback to a domestic censorship unit that target the lawful speech of UK citizens.
The witness statements from Sam Lister, director-general for strategy and operations at the DCMS, and Susannah Storey, permanent secretary at the DCMS, were made public this week as part of an independent inquiry into the coronavirus pandemic. However, Lister’s statement was given in March 2023 and Storey’s statement was given in April 2023.
Lister’s witness statement revealed that the CDU consulted with international partners “who provide additional insights on potentially harmful disinformation, based on social media data and academic research.”
Storey’s statement elaborated on the scope of these consultations and revealed that the CDU attended multiple “disinformation sessions” with these international partners which include the Internet Government Forum (a United Nations initiative), Digital Nations (a UK-founded network that has 10 member countries), and G7 (an intergovernmental political forum consisting of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the US)….