David Davis has been targeted by the Misinformation Unit. Photo: JULIAN SIMMONDS FOR THE TELEGRAPH Chopper Politics Podcast – Davis, Chapman, Korsky
David Davis is used to being spied on. When he was Brexit secretary, he carried Brexit documents with him in a steel suitcase with a built-in Faraday cage to prevent cameras from taking x-rays of the contents.
But the Telegraph revelations about Whitehall's secret Disinformation Unit (CDU) , which was used to quell dissent from naysayers about the lockdown during the pandemic, really shocked him.
“What we have at the moment is the spread of things when the most paranoid wing of the government interferes in the democratic process,” he told me on the Chopper’s Politics podcast this week.
“There will be a limit. to what they could have done 25 years ago… The problem today is that we don't know what the algorithms are doing. We have no idea what kind of deal they made with Google or Twitter or whoever.
“And it's really affecting the debate not only in the UK, but around the world.”
It is alarming that Mr. Davis himself has been targeted by the unit. A report from the campaign group Big Brother Watch revealed that Mr Davis was under surveillance by the CDU. A request for subject access by Mr. Davies, a Conservative MP for Haltemprice and Howden, revealed that the MP's tweets questioning the models proposed at the start of the pandemic were monitored and recorded.
“The record does not indicate what specific statements by Mr. Davis are noteworthy, but he refers to him as “criticizing the government,” Big Brother Watch said.
The time for this entry comes just weeks after Mr Davies co-authored a Telegraph op-ed questioning the mathematical reasoning behind the Imperial College model that influenced early government decisions on Covid lockdowns. -19. Mr. Davis was not alone. Big Brother Watch found that other MPs have attracted the attention of the CDU, including Belle Ribeiro-Addi of the Labor Party.
Mr Davies said he believed he was being targeted by the CDU because he challenged the use of polling data to justify authoritarian ministerial policies using freedom of information requests and parliamentary questions.
“Earlier, in very early on in the Covid pandemic, I started to worry that we weren't really making science decisions,” he says.
“I started asking questions about survey data because I thought it looked bigger it looks like the government has made judgments on focus groups and polls than on any science.
“Keep in mind that at that time science was very primitive, and I started asking about it and completely lost my mind.
“A lot of the disputes at that time were not really between science and non-science. They were between authority and non-authority.
Mr Davies noted that some “well-qualified people were concerned that this virus came from a lab. They were completely crushed on social networks – they were canceled.”
The ministers were lucky that the existence of the CDU was not revealed during the pandemic,” he said.
“We really didn’t know that we were really being followed. I think if we had known at the time it would have been an absolute outrage,” he said.
The CDU seems to have gone a long way from its original goal of preventing foreign governments from interfering in UK elections .
He moved from the then Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports to the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology as part of the government change mechanism in February.
Michelle Donelan, who was minister of culture before the change, has moved to the science department and is still head of the CDU, although she is currently on maternity leave. Mr Davies said Ms Donelan “wanted to close it but was talked out of it”. When asked if the government should roll it up, he replied: “In principle, yes, I think it should.”
system. Now that's a legitimate concern.
But then why talk about it so carefully? You know, we still can't find out how much the government spends on the CDU.
“If the state wants to do something to protect the elections, which is important, from foreign influence, then they must do it explicitly.
“This requires one unit, one response system, one understanding of the policy that the entire House [of Commons] should advocate for, both sides.”< /p>Object to be investigated
According to him, the Committee on Public Accounts – the most influential parliamentary committee – should investigate its work and how it was financed.
“Parliamentary investigation is probably the best, it is the best combination of power, access and speed, because we want to get rid of this thing, either replace it with something that we have a very specific purpose in, or limit its scope, one or the other.”
For Mr Davies, the CDU warning signs are visible to everyone in his name. “You have to ask why. It is not called the Disinformation Monitoring Group. It's called the Disinformation Unit.
Mr. Davis asked about the links between social media and the government. He said: “They asked them to change the algorithm? Because, keep in mind, these days you can get away with reducing someone's efficiency not by canceling them, which is very important, but by changing the algorithms, and no one will see it.”
Mr Davis said he was also “canceled by YouTube” after a video surfaced in which he opposes vaccine passports.
stopping transmission turned out to be false,” he said. on this occasion. And you have to wonder how many of these algorithms are approved by the government, because they are very pro-establishment algorithms.”
On Friday night, a government spokesman said the ministers would be “happy” to appear before community committees to discuss the CDU, which aims to “track narratives and trends using public information on the Internet to protect public health and national security.” p>
“It does not monitor political debates and does not direct any content of journalists, politicians or political parties to social networks.”
CDU is currently engaged in “disinformation related to the illegal invasion of Ukraine ”.
Whitehall sources said it was flat-out false that Ms Donelan had been “discouraged” from shutting down the CDU.
I asked Mr Davies why governments are becoming more authoritarian . “Part of it is a natural tendency of organizations,” he said. “Organizations don't like to be watched…
“Whitehall is all about information control. Information is power. They know this, so they tend to hoard it for themselves. But the second reason, and understandably…they didn't know what else to do.
“They had never experienced anything like this before. It's the same with the disease, with the pandemic.”