Rapid Response Unit

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According to Alex Aiken:

In April [2018], the Cabinet Office launched the Rapid Response Unit (RRU) to help meet this complex policy challenge. The new team is made up of specialists including analyst-editors, data scientists, media and digital experts. It monitors news and information being shared and engaged with online to identify emerging issues with speed, accuracy and with integrity. We do this to better understand the news environment, to let departments know about emerging stories, and to assess the effectiveness of our public information.
Based across the Cabinet Office and No.10, the RRU is neither a “rebuttal” unit, nor is it a “fake news” unit. During this pilot period, we’ve tested the concept, evaluated the impact of specific initiatives and examined how strongly stories are shared online.[1]

In March 2020 the Cabinet Office announced:

The Cabinet Office has set up a special unit to clamp down on online misinformation about coronavirus. It said the Rapid Response Unit has been working with social media companies to identity and block “false narratives”. The team comprises representatives from government and the technology sector and is one of those feeding into the wide Counter Disinformation Cell led by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.[2]

The RRU was closed down in August 2022. This was announced in a Parliamentary Answer in March 2023:

The rapid response unit was created in 2018 and disbanded in August 2022. It was formed as a central resource in the Government Communication Service that used publicly available information to improve Government’s ability to identify where certain narratives about our work were gaining traction online and to understand public sentiment about Government policies. On disbandment, the information collected was archived and it will be retained in line with the Cabinet Office information retention policy, which is available online.[3]



According to Global Government Forum, the RRU is staffed by five full time staff and four senior officials who work on a part time basis (as of Jan 2019)[4]

An FoI response from the Cabinet Office on 1 July 2020 stated:

Please see below for the names of the Senior Civil Servants responsible for the Rapid Response Unit and National Security Communications Team.
Head of Digital, No 10 and Cabinet Office - Peter Heneghan
Deputy Director, National Security Communications team - Darragh McElroy[5]


Former staff

  • Connie Begbie - Executive Assistant to Alex Aiken, Executive Director of Government Communication Jun 2019 - May 2021.[6][7]
  • Benjamin Carty – Senior Communications Manager, RRU (Secondment) (Mar 2020 - Oct 2020) [8] [9]
  • Katie Williamson-Walsh – Deputy Head of RRU (May 2019 - Mar 2021)[10][11]
  • Ben Westlake-Tritton – Former Deputy Head of RRU , then Director at Mercury (Public Strategy firm)
  • Ryan White – Work Shadowing in RRU (Feb 2020), then Digital Content Officer at Department for Education
  • Oliver Marsh – Former Senior Data Analyst and Stakeholder Lead, RRU , then Head of Data Adequacy (DCMS)
  • Hyo Adams – Former Data Analyst, RRU (Nov 18 to Oct 19), then Professional Development Officer, Cabinet Office
  • Chris Hamilton – Former Head of Communications, Launched RRU (May 17 – Sept 19), then Managing Editor at BP

See also



Cabinet Office





  1. 1.0 1.1 Alex Aiken the Rapid Response Unit, Government Communication Service (July 19, 2018), Original URL: https://gcs.civilservice.gov.uk/news/alex-aiken-introduces-the-rapid-response-unit/, archived at https://perma.cc/837J-UF2U.
  2. Mark Say, Cabinet Office creates team to combat online disinformation on coronavirus, UK Authority, 30 March 2020, archived at: https://archive.vn/sv5pU
  3. https://archive.ph/madmq
  4. Natalie Leal, ‘UK ‘fake news’ unit wins permanent funding’ by Global Government Forum, Jan 2019, archived at: https://archive.vn/dBXuJ
  5. Eirian Walsh Atkins, Cabinet Office Freedom of Information request 'A list of names who currently work for the Rapid Response Unit and/or National Security Communications Team'.
  6. Connie Begbie, LinkedIn Profile (6 June 2020) archived at: https://archive.vn/imORT#selection-1313.15-1313.96
  7. https://www.linkedin.com/in/connie-begbie-250a9b174/
  8. https://www.linkedin.com/in/benjamin-carty-15335633/
  9. Benjamin Carty, LinkedIn Profile (6 June 2020) archived at: https://archive.vn/5P1cV
  10. https://www.linkedin.com/in/katie-williamson-walsh-41688217a/details/experience/
  11. Katie Williamson-Walsh, LinkedIn Profile (6 June 2020) archived at: https://archive.vn/2mF6K