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UK says G7 to look at ‘rapid response’ tool against Russia

May 2, 2021

The G7 powers will this week examine a UK proposal to craft a “rapid response mechanism” to counter disinformation from Russia, Britain said on Sunday.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will host Group of Seven ministers from Monday for the wealthy club’s first in-person meeting in two years, with tensions over Ukraine on the agenda.

Britain is “getting the G7 to come together with a rapid rebuttal mechanism” against Russian “lies and propaganda or fake news”, Raab told reporters.

The idea is to “come together to provide a rebuttal and frankly to provide the truth, for the people of this country but also in Russia or China or around the world”, he said.

At the G7, Raab will present Foreign Office-funded research showing that a network of trolls is targeting national newspapers in democracies to spread pro-Moscow views, the Sunday Times reported.

“Pro-Russian trolls are posting comments on Ukraine and other areas, both to influence opinion here but to be played back in the Russian media,” Raab told the newspaper.

“It’s a good example of the attritional struggle we’re in. We’re bringing the major powers together to defend open societies.”

China also stands accused by Western intelligence of unleashing trolls on social media, and of using foreign-language arms of its state media to channel an aggressive line on issues such as the plight of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

Raab did not give any further details about the proposed mechanism, and there was no immediate response from the Foreign Office to an AFP query.

The foreign secretary on Saturday announced extra funding of £8 million ($11 million, 9.2 million euros) to the BBC World Service to help tackle disinformation and inaccurate news reporting worldwide.

BBC director-general Tim Davie said: “As the world continues to fight the Covid pandemic, the positive role of the World Service in providing trusted, impartial news has never been more critical.”

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.