Government Information Cell
On Wednesday 23 March , Simon Baugh, Chief Executive, UK Government Communication Service (GCS), spoke at the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) International summit on how the UK Government Communication Service has been responding to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine:
- Since 2016, we have been providing strategic communications support to the Government of Ukraine, ranging from helping to build a professional communications capability at the centre of Government, to building resilience to cyber security threats, to jointly delivering a campaign to support the shared values of our democracies. We facilitated the first ever cross-Government of Ukraine communications community, called One Voice, bringing together communicators to undertake training and share best practice. Our prayers are with them and their families, and we want them to know they are doing a fantastic job. Alongside our work in Ukraine, GCS has been working with countries in central and eastern Europe to take action against disinformation. GCS has trained more than five hundred communicators from 20 countries using our ‘RESIST 2’ counter disinformation toolkit.
- ...In January, as it became evident that Vladimir Putin was intent on invading Ukraine, we took new measures. The intelligence picture showed that Russia was developing false flag attacks to justify an invasion. Kremlin proxies in the Donbas were producing a series of increasingly absurd fake incidents to serve as a pretext for Russian aggression.
- In an unprecedented move, working with allies, we declassified intelligence information so that the world could see what Russia was planning. In exposing Russia’s propaganda and subterfuge, and calling it out for what it was, we hoped Russia would be less likely to engage in an attack. At the same time, we made clear that Russia would face unprecedented economic sanctions if it did invade. Tragically for the people of Ukraine, the messages reached the Kremlin but went unheeded.
- At the start of February, we created the UK Government Information Cell. Its staff are drawn from across the UK Government into one team which includes the Foreign Office, Cabinet Office, Ministry of Defence, Home Office and Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Its goal is to dispel Kremlin falsehoods relating to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. It works with our NATO, EU and Five Eyes allies to identify Russian disinformation and expose it as false. It also creates content to bolster the morale and confidence of the Ukrainian people by showing them they are not alone.
- We are building the capability to deliver fast communication with impact, in real-time and on the basis of 24/7 monitoring, content production, response and rebuttal. The Information Cell enhances our ability to counter the threat posed by information warfare and exposes Russian audiences to the truth about Putin’s war. It is a leaflet drop operation for the social media age.
- Even more important than what the Information Cell does, is what it does not do. Unlike Russia, our model is based on the UK Government using facts to expose the truth. Its unofficial motto has become “the truth, well told”. We do not propagate disinformation ourselves. 
- This isn’t a level playing field and we know that the Russians won’t hold themselves to the same standards of factual accuracy and transparency that we want to uphold. But my sincerely held conviction is that some of our greatest long-term advantages against Russian information operations are our ethical and legal frameworks, our open society, our commitment to freedom of the press, and the enduring principle of ‘honesty’ in public life set out in the Civil Service Code.
According to former Foreign Office press secretary Simon McGee:
- Britain’s information warfare efforts concerning Ukraine is led and co-ordinated by the so-called Government Information Cell, a spin-off from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s previous Counter-Daesh Communications Cell, a strategic communications team that had been formed to counter the Islamic State’s gonzo, yet effective, use of social media. The new Cell, a cross-departmental effort led by the FCDO that included Russian-speakers and tech-savvy social media warriors, is pushing back on Russia’s narratives, and taking the fight to Russian soil on Telegram. Yet the UK needs to do even more... Britain may not need to return to the World War II days of a fully-fledged Ministry of Information, or resurrect covert propaganda agencies such as the Political Warfare Executive, but a political choice needs to be taken to upskill our information warfare capabilities and to give it a mandate to engage fully across spectrums. That choice means decisions need to be made to fund and permanently to locate a bigger and bolder Government Information Cell. Britain will only weaponise information as fully as possible by shrinking the current capability gap as fast as possible.
- Kenny MacAskill, Alba, East Lothian, 24 February 2022:
- To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, what plans his Department has to establish an information warfare unit; and if he will publish the (a) official title and (b) budget of such unit.
- Michael Ellis Paymaster General, Minister of State (Cabinet Office) (Attends Cabinet)
- The new Government Information Cell (GIC) draws together expertise from across government including but not limited to FCDO, DCMS, MoD and CO experts in assessment and analysis and counter-disinformation. The GIC was set up to identify and counter Russian disinformation targeted at UK and international audiences.
(asked on 22nd March 2022)
- Alicia Kearns (Conservative - Rutland and Melton) Question to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office:
- To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, whether the Information Unit in her Department will coordinate its work with the Counter Disinformation Cell led by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport; and whether that unit is (a) permanent and (b) will be in constant operation.
- Answered by James Cleverly Foreign Secretary. This question was answered on 30th March 2022
- The Government Information Cell (GIC) has been established specifically to support the UK's response to Russian disinformation relating to their invasion of Ukraine. The GIC works in partnership with all relevant parts of Government, including the Counter Disinformation Unit based in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. It has been established as a surge team, with a view to its work informing the Government's longer-term approach to countering disinformation.
- Counter Disinformation Cell (AKA Disinformation & Misinformation Unit) - DCMS is the lead department.
- Counter-Daesh Coalition Communications Cell
- Counter Disinformation and Media Development
- Conflict, Stability and Security Fund
- Government Information Cell
- They Work for You Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office: Information Warfare Cabinet Office written question – answered on 24th February 2022.