Facebook has announced that it’s teaming up with the Atlantic Council, a foreign policy think tank funded by NATO member states and their allies, energy companies, and weapons contractors to “monitoring for misinformation and foreign interference” during elections.
Here’s an excerpt from Facebook’s press release announcing the deal:
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 will also use the Atlantic Council’s Digital Research Unit Monitoring Missions during elections and other highly sensitive moments. This will allow us to focus on a particular geographic area — monitoring for misinformation and foreign interference and also working to help educate citizens as well as civil society.
Finally, we know that tackling these problems effectively also requires the right policies and regulatory structures so that governments and companies can help prevent abuse while also ensuring people have a voice during elections. The Atlantic Council’s network of leaders is uniquely situated to help all of us think through the challenges we will face in the near and long-term.
In 2014, the New York Times found that at least 25 foreign governments had donated to the Atlantic Council dating back to 2008. Two years later, the same paper found that the Council was helping to push the agendas of corporations that had helped raised its revenues to over $21 million per year from $2 million in the preceding decade:
FedEx teamed up with the Atlantic Council — a think tank that focuses on international relations, with annual revenue that has surged to $21 million from $2 million in the last decade — to build support for a free-trade agreement the company hoped would increase business.
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.”
When the report came out in late 2014, its conclusions mirrored arguments FedEx had been aggressively pushing on Capitol Hill, including recommending a reduction in trans-Atlantic tariffs and allowing more duty-free shipments.
Atlantic Council CEO Fred Kempe, a former reporter and editor at the Wall Street Journal who became the organization’s CEO in 2007, told the Times at the time that FedEx had given the group just $20,000.
“Companies enjoy priority access to the Council’s hundreds of public and private events, meetings, conference calls, and working dinners with world leaders and key decision makers held in the United States and abroad,” said a 2013 brochure for the organization’s corporate program which was published by the Times. “These networking opportunities allow them to meet and gain insights from top leaders in government, business, the military, and academia.”
Still, the Atlantic Council says that it’s an “independent, nonpartisan organization that generates ideas and fosters debate on global policy issues.”
Here’s some of the great organizations, foreign governments, and corporations which have given money to the Atlantic Council in recent years, presumably because they respect the Atlantic Council’s intellectual independence so damn much: Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, BP, Chevron, Exxon, JP Morgan, the Charles Koch Institute, and the governments of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom, as well as the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines.
Last year, the Atlantic Council reportedly arranged a meeting between top former U.S. foreign policy officials and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whose government’s state-owned properties have also funded the organization. And if that wasn’t enough, last week the Atlantic Council gave President George W. Bush a “Distinguished International Leadership” award at an event where Bush was reportedly received with a “standing ovation.” Per the Washington Post:
The organization has considered giving Bush the award for the past few years, but the Iraq War was always the stumbling block. This year, the jury looked at his work fighting AIDS, his foreign policy in Africa, and his leadership in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. “Our conclusion was that, the longer time goes on and his presidency is reassessed, the better he looks,” Kempe said.
This was always where Facebook’s ongoing attempt to atone for the Cambridge Analytica and Russian election meddling scandals was going to go: becoming a proud and willing partner of the very noble pro-blob foreign policy establishment which promotes
U.S. government and corporate interests freedom and democracy around the world. The system works, folks.