Scram News has found that Downing Street will increase funding for its ‘fake news unit’ by nearly 70% this year.
The Rapid Response Unit (RRU), based in 10 Downing Street, uses digital tools to monitor and respond to viral fake news stories, often produced by the far-right.
The RRU was launched in April 2018 and spent £485,000 on staff and technology during its first year, according to statistics obtained by Scram News through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.
These statistics show that RRU spending is set to dramatically increase this year, to an estimated £700,000. A comment attached within the FOI noted that this spending was designed to expand the scope of the RRU and “further enhance its operations”.
The RRU is mainly tasked with identifying viral stories that carry misinformation. According to a Politico report from December 2018, Downing Street is increasingly concerned about the rise of nationalist, conspiratorial stories that far outperform government press releases and the content of mainstream outlets.
The report states that some in government are worried that hyperpartisan misinformation is amplifying radical figures like Tommy Robinson and putting young people at risk of radicalisation.
Our new figures demonstrate the scale of the government’s concern – to the extent that they’re prepared to drastically ramp-up funding and expand their efforts.