Government to ramp up social-media skills in bid to ‘tackle false information’ online

Written by Tamsin Rutter on 23 January 2018 in News
News

Cabinet Office to build team of online experts to help ‘harness power of technology for good’

The Cabinet Office plans to introduce a new team of social media experts to combat the spread of fake news online.

Alex Aiken, the executive director for government communications, said that changes to the way news is shared have presented new challenges for government communicators, who must react while continuing to be a reliable source of information.

He said one of the aims of the Government Communication Service for 2018 was to “build a rapid response social media capability to deal quickly with disinformation and reclaim a fact-based public debate with a new team to lead this work in the Cabinet Office”.

Writing last week in PR Week, Aiken outlined eight objectives for the GCS in 2018, including dealing with the spread of “disinformation”.


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“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,” he said. 

“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.”

As well as building social media capability, Aiken’s goals for 2018 included challenging the declining trust in institutions through honest, relevant and responsive government campaigns; creating engaging and shareable content; better use of data; and updating guidance on behavioural science techniques.

He said the GCS would be implementing a new approach to strategic communication, part of the GCS Improvement programme, in June.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “The government is committed to tackling false information and the Government Communications Service plays a crucial role in this. Digital communications are constantly evolving and we are looking at ways to meet the challenging media landscape by harnessing the power of new technology for good.”

The move comes after environment secretary Michael Gove in November criticised “the way in which social media corrupts and distorts” reporting and political decision-making, after an article in the Independent incorrectly claimed that Conservative MPs had voted against including a clause in the EU Withdrawal Bill that recognised that animals are sentient beings.

 

About the author

Tamsin Rutter is senior reporter for PublicTechnology sister publication Civil Service World. She tweets as @TamsinRutter

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