(Reuters) - Britain's GCHQ has begun an offensive cyber-operation to tackle anti-vaccine propaganda being spread online by hostile states, The Times reported.
This latest move by GCHQ, which gathers communications from around the world to identify and disrupt threats to Britain, is an attempt to counter disinformation activities linked to Russia, the report said.
The British government considers tackling false information about immunization as a high priority as the prospect of a reliable vaccine against the coronavirus draws closer, the Times said.
A vaccine is seen as the world's best bet for beating the COVID-19 pandemic that has led to more than 1.2 million deaths, roiled economies and disrupted billions of lives.
GCHQ is Britain's main eavesdropping agency and has a close relationship with the U.S. National Security Agency, as well as the eavesdropping agencies of Australia, Canada and New Zealand in an intelligence alliance known as the "Five Eyes".
"GCHQ has been told to take out antivaxers online and on social media," the Times said, citing a source.
The report said the focus of the operation is taking down hostile state-linked content and disrupting the communications of the cyberactors responsible.
(Reporting by Rebekah Mathew in Bengaluru; Editing by Daniel Wallis)