On Thursday Facebook announced a new partnership with the Atlantic Council, a think tank which officially claims to provide a forum for international political, business, and intellectual leaders. The social media giant said the partnership is aimed at preventing Facebook from “being abused during elections.” The press release promotes Facebook’s efforts to fight fake news by using artificial intelligence, as well as working with outside experts and governments.
Today, we’re excited to launch a new partnership with the Atlantic Council, which has a stellar reputation looking at innovative solutions to hard problems. Experts from their Digital Forensic Research Lab will work closely with our security, policy and product teams to get Facebook real-time insights and updates on emerging threats and disinformation campaigns from around the world. This will help 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.
Facebook goes on to describe how the Atlantic Council’s Digital Research Unit Monitoring Missions will be monitoring traffic during elections and other “highly sensitive moments.” Facebook claims this will help the company monitor for misinformation and foreign interference. Of course, there is also the obligatory reference to protecting democracy and “free and fair elections across the world.”
The Atlantic Council of the United States was established in 1961 to bolster support for international relations. Although not officially connected to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Atlantic Council has spent decades promoting causes and issues which are beneficial to NATO member states. In addition, The Atlantic Council is a member of the Atlantic Treaty Organization, an umbrella organization which “acts as a network facilitator in the Euro-Atlantic and beyond.” The ATA works similarly to the Atlantic Council, bringing together political leaders, academics, military officials, journalists and diplomats to promote values that are favorable to the NATO member states. Officially, ATA is independent of NATO, but the line between the two is razor thin.
Essentially, the Atlantic Council is a think tank which can offer companies or nation states access to military officials, politicians, journalists, diplomats, etc. to help them develop a plan to implement their strategy or vision. These strategies often involve getting NATO governments or industry insiders to make decisions they might not have made without a visit from the Atlantic Council team. This allows individuals or nations to push forth their ideas under the cover of hiring what appears to be a public relations agency but is actually selling access to high-profile individuals with power to affect public policy. Indeed, everyone from George H.W. Bush to Bill Clinton to the family of international agent of disorder Zbigniew Brzezinski have spoken at or attended council events.
In 2016, The New York Times wrote “The Atlantic Council, which has seen its annual revenue grow to $21 million from $2 million in the last decade, offers access to United States and foreign government officials in exchange for contributions. Individual donors, like FedEx, have also helped fund specific reports that align with their agendas.” The Times wrote that giving financial support is rewarded with “an ‘unprecedented level of information and access,’ including the chance to have a corporate executive, if the company donates at least $50,000 a year, speak at an Atlantic Council event ‘with top U.S. and foreign leaders’ present.”
In another report, The Times describes the relationship between FedEx the Atlantic Council and European governments. According to documents obtained by The Times, the Council helped FedEx “to build support for a free-trade agreement the company hoped would increase business. Six months before the Atlantic Council report was issued, FedEx and the think tank worked on plans to use the report as a lobbying tool.” The Atlantic Council helped organize “a public report launch with member(s) of Congress from one of the relevant committees.”
FedEx and the Atlantic Council, working with the European American Chamber of Commerce, also told companies being asked to participate in the study that the goal was to ’emphasize the positive impact that a comprehensive agreement would have on American and European small businesses.’
According to their website, “The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) has operationalized the study of disinformation by exposing falsehoods and fake news, documenting human rights abuses, and building digital resilience worldwide.” The DFRLab tracks global disinfo campaigns, fake news stories, and “subversive attempts against democracy while teaching the public skills to identify and expose attempts to pollute the information space.”
Despite the promise to document human rights abuses, one would be hard pressed to find a single item on The Atlantic Council website mentioning the human rights violations of the United States or any of their allies – some of whom are financial supporters of the Atlantic Council. In addition, the Council has a publication under the “disinformation” category called “Breaking Aleppo.” Disinformation is a fitting title for the publication because it largely repeats the narratives pushed by Western Media – President Assad is a horrible dictator who won’t stop using chemical weapons on his own people and anyone who questions that narrative is buying into Syrian and Russian propaganda. The report also promotes the work and credibility of the discredited White Helmets.
The list of financial supporters reads like a who’s-who of think tanks and Non-Governmental Organizations. The Atlantic Council receives funding from the Brookings Institution, Carnegie Endowment, Cato Institute, Council on Foreign Relations, and the Rand Corporation, to name a few. In addition, various members of the Military-Industrial Complex are benefactors of the Atlantic Council, including Huntington Ingalls, the United States’ sole maker of aircraft carriers; Airbus, the plane manufacturer; Lockheed Martin, the shipbuilder and aviation company; and Raytheon, which makes missile systems. All of the companies have contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense and offer financial support to the Atlantic Council. The Council also receives support from Chevron and the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Finally, the Atlantic Council receives direct financial support from the U.S. Departments of the Air Force, Army, Navy and Energy and from the U.S. Mission to NATO.
It is clear that despite what Facebook says, this partnership will further align the goals of Facebook with the Western Military-Industrial Complex. It’s time for people to stop supporting these platforms – both Facebook and Government. It’s time we opt-out of these systems and opt-in to our communities. Only by organizing on a local level to protect and defend those closest to us we will thrive in the coming totalitarian American state.
This work by The Last American Vagabond is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, and may be reposted as is, with attribution to the author and TheLastAmericanVagabond.com. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at Ryan@thelastamericanvagabond.com.