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Death threats against senior health officials prompt DHSC action

Published on: 23 Dec 2021

An artificial intelligence company has been hired by the government to monitor online death threats against “high profile individuals” working on the covid-19 vaccination programme.

Contract documents released this week reveal the Department of Health and Social Care has brought in Yorkshire-based firm Logically to detect and report on threats made against officials, as well as misinformation and “foreign interference”.

According to the contract, Logically will provide a number of services for DHSC, which include:

  • Regular reporting of threats to life and property to high profile individuals related to the covid-19 vaccine rollout;
  • “Flash reporting” of emergent threats to life and property;
  • Detect foreign interference through official, affiliate and unofficial networks;
  • “Ad hoc research…within the scope of monitoring misinformation and other content threats” related to the covid-19 vaccine rollout.

Logically will receive £684,000 in the first year of the contract, with DHSC retaining the option to extend the deal for another year.

DHSC said in a statement it would not tolerate “any harassment or mistreatment of staff” and that the department has a “range of measures to protect our people, including on online platforms”.

The company was hired in July, three weeks after the government’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty was assaulted by Lewis Hughes in central London. Another man, Jonathan Chew, pleaded not guilty to assault and is due to appear in court next year.

At the time, MPs criticised social media companies for not doing enough to stop violence being incited against high-profile officials leading the UK’s response to the pandemic.

Logically describes itself as a company that combines “advanced AI and machine learning with one of the world’s largest dedicated fact-checking teams to provide everyone… with the tools they need to identify and disarm damaging and misleading information being shared online”.

In July, the firm also announced a “fact-checking partnership” with Facebook.

Details of the contract were first reported by