Under the guise of fighting “fake news” and protecting US democracy from “foreign influence,” in 2018 social media giant Facebook established partnerships with the Atlantic Council, a NATO-sponsored think tank, and with two US government creations from the Cold War era, the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute. As a number of independent news organizations reported, despite lofty rhetoric about safeguarding Western democracies, these partnerships have resulted in what amounts to state censorship, with Facebook serving as a tool of US foreign policy.
On May 17, 2018, Facebook announced that it would join forces with the Atlantic Council in order to “identify emerging threats and disinformation campaigns around the world” and to “fight abuse on our platform.” According to Facebook’s director of global politics and government outreach, Katie Harbath, the partnership with the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab would “increase the number of ‘eyes and ears’ we have working to spot potential abuse on our service—enabling us to more effectively identify gaps in our systems, preempt obstacles, and ensure that Facebook plays a positive role during elections all around the world.”
As Jake Johnson reported for Common Dreams, “While Facebook’s statement fawned over the Atlantic Council’s ‘stellar reputation,’ critics argued that the organization’s reliance on donations from foreign oil monarchies and American plutocrats puts the lie to the project’s stated mission of shielding the democratic process from manipulation and abuse.”
The Atlantic Council is a Washington, DC–based think tank funded by the US Department of State, the US Navy, Army, and Air Force, and major multinational corporations—including Chevron, ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, global asset management firms and banks, and top military contractors. According to a 2014 New York Times article, between 2008 and 2013 “at least 25 countries” donated tens of millions of dollars to the council. Its conservative-leaning board of directors includes former CIA directors, retired US generals, and hawkish former State Department officials like Henry Kissinger and Condoleezza Rice. In a May 2018 article, FAIR’s Adam Johnson noted that, although there is “some diversity of opinion” within the Atlantic Council, “it is within a very limited pro-Western ideological framework—a framework that debates how much and where US military and soft power influence should be wielded, not if it should in the first place.”
As Johnson wrote, it is troubling that Facebook would rely on advice from an organization that has advocated on behalf of Turkish dictator Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, one of its previous funders, and which presented former President George W. Bush—who was directly responsible for “the illegal invasion of Iraq that killed between 500,000 and a million people”—a Distinguished International Leadership award.
In the name of fighting the scourge of “fake news,” Facebook altered its proprietary algorithms in ways that significantly reduced traffic to progressive websites such as Common Dreams and Slate. Without formal warning, Facebook shut down left-wing, Venezuela-linked Facebook pages such as teleSUR English and Venezuelanalysis (although both were reinstituted after protests about their removal). In October 2018, numerous independent news outlets reported on what Jonathan Sigrist, writing for Global Research, described as “one of the greatest Facebook account and page purges” in the platform’s troubled history. In total, Sigrist reported, 559 pages and 251 personal accounts were “instantly removed” in the name of fighting “fake news” and “Russian propaganda.” Many of the pages and accounts that Facebook took down, Sigrist wrote, were “political (often leftist), anti-war, independent journalists and media outlets” that had been targeted in 2016 by PropOrNot, the website endorsed by the Washington Post but subsequently discredited.
In September 2018, FAIR’s Alan MacLeod detailed how Facebook planned to join forces with “two propaganda organizations founded and funded by the US government: the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI),” allegedly in an effort to combat “fake news.”
The NDI and the IRI were both established under an umbrella organization called the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a nonprofit created by the US Congress in 1983 to influence politics and elections in developing countries. Facebook’s collaboration with these organizations is especially concerning because, as MacLeod wrote, both organizations have “aggressively pursued regime change against leftist governments overseas.” In the 1980s, the NDI worked to destabilize the Sandinista government in Nicaragua, and the IRI supported the attempted 2002 coup d’état against Venezuela’s socialist president Hugo Chávez….
I think it’s more accurate to say that they target any govt which isn’t a puppet of the western transnational financial aristocracy. Nationalists, in other words.