New national security unit set up to tackle fake news in UK

The defence secretary, Gavin Williamson.

The government is to set up a dedicated national security unit to tackle fake news and disinformation, Downing Street has said as part of a wider announcement about a review of defence capabilities.

The changes will also see the creation a defence-specific assessment, to be separated from the wider and national security capability review (NSCR), the prime minister’s spokesman said.

One specific area agreed as needing new resources by the national security council as part of the NSCR is the spread of fake news, he said.

“We are living in an era of fake news and competing narratives. The government will respond with more and better use of national security communications to tackle these interconnected, complex challenges.

“To do this we will build on existing capabilities by creating a dedicated national security communications unit. This will be tasked with combating disinformation by state actors and others.”

The unit will “more systematically deter our adversaries and help us deliver on national security priorities”, he added, saying there was as yet no information on where it would be based or who would staff it.

In what is likely to be seen as a victory for the defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, the national security council has also agreed to a defence-only review of needs and capabilities.

The review, to be called the modernising defence programme, will incorporate elements of the 10-year strategic defence and security review, begun in 2015, and a parallel programme called joint force 2025.

“The defence element of the NSCR has shown that further work is needed in order to modernise defence, to deliver better military capability and value for money, in a sustainable and affordable way in accordance with the national security objectives,” the No 10 spokesman said.

Williamson will set out more details to parliament soon, he added.

The former chief whip has fought a vigorous campaign against any further defence cuts since become defence secretary in November.

However, the spokesman refused to say whether the new review could be seen as a sign of success for Williamson, saying Theresa May was committed to above-inflation increases in defence spending.

“The defence programme is about ensuring the defence capabilities and processes we have meet the challenges and threats we face,” he said. “I’m not going to pre-empt that work.”

Nia Griffith, the shadow defence secretary, said the separate defence review could not simply be used as “an excuse to kick the difficult decisions facing the defence budget into the long grass”.

She continued: “Just this week we have had serious warnings from the head of the army about the threats that this country faces and there has been growing concern that the government’s deep cuts to our nation’s defences have left us ill-equipped to respond to those threats.

“The true test of any defence review will be whether it delivers real investment in our nation’s defences and the resources that our armed forces so badly need. You cannot do security on the cheap and it is high time that the government recognised this.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *