In an exclusive report, the London-based Middle East Eye has established that a part-time officer in the British army’s 77th Brigade is also working for the social media company Twitter.
According to Middle East Eye, Gordon Macmillan, has been working for Twitter’s UK office for six years. He has been serving simultaneously with the 77th Brigade, which was formed in early 2015, Presstv Reported.
The 77th Brigade’s official website describes the unit as an “influence and outreach” organisation dedicated to using “non-military levers as a means to adapt behaviours of the opposing forces and adversaries”.
In a long investigative piece on January 31, 2015, The Independent covered the 77th Brigade’s formation by scrutinising its foundational concepts.
The Independent described the 77th Brigade as a “specialist force” modelled on the “Chindits” of Burma, the British commandos who gained fame during the Second World War for their long-range penetration operations behind Japanese lines.
Quoting the unit’s founders, The Independent says the 77th Brigade specialises in “non-lethal” forms of psychological warfare, primarily by using social media platforms, notably Facebook and Twitter, to “fight in the information age”.
The British army chief, General Sir Nick Carter, told The Independent that the creation of the unit is “essential” to face the “asymmetric” battlefields of the 21st century.
Carter alluded to the campaign carried out “against the Japanese by Allied troops” using “unconventional tactics” during the Second World War.
Carter provided further disclosures about the role and functions of 77th Brigade at a speech he made to the Royal United Services Institute (a defence thinktank affiliated to the British Ministry of Defence - MoD) in February 2018.
Strikingly, Carter claimed that: “In our 77 Brigade … we have got some remarkable talent when it comes to social media, production design, and indeed Arabic poetry”.
In relation to reserve forces (of which Gordon Macmillan is a part), Carter claimed that: “We now have over 30,000 on the books in terms of the Reserve and they are available to deploy with the Regular Component, if they have got the time and if their employers can release them”.
According to the Middle East Eye, Macmillan’s editorial responsibilities at Twitter also covered Europe and Africa. He was reportedly a captain at 77th Brigade at the end of 2016, but the MoD will not disclose his current rank.
The British army’s use of fake social media accounts, on Twitter, Facebook and other platforms, inevitably gives rise to serious concerns about the integrity of these platforms.
The latest revelation about the 77th Brigade is highly ironic and hypocritical in view of the British government’s purported pushback against “fake news”.
In early 2018, the British government even set up a specialised unit to counter fake news.
According to Theresa May’s spokesman the “dedicated national security communications unit” would be charged with “combating disinformation by state actors and others”.