Tech Censorship

Twitter Files Extra: How the World’s “No-Kidding Decision Makers” Got Organized

The Atlantic Council is hosting its 360/0S Summit at RightsCon this week, and Twitter Files documents tell us more about how this VIP-room-within-a-VIP-room was formed

Jun 6, 2023
Senators Mark Warner (l) and Marco Rubio (r) speaking at an Atlantic Council event

In Costa Rica and Latvia today, the Atlantic Council is hosting its 360/OS Summit at RightsCon Costa Rica and NATO’s Riga StratCom. Among other things, the influential think tank will be previewing its “Task Force for a Trustworthy Future Web” report, which they hope will “lay the groundwork for stronger cross-sectoral ideation and action” and “facilitate collaboration now between the expanding community dedicated to understanding and protecting trust and safety.”

In human terms, conference attendees are discussing how best to stay on-brand by presenting the Censorship-Industrial Complex as a human rights initiative, and as #TwitterFiles documents show, they have the juice to pull it off.

EngageMedia (which I co-founded and was the long-time Executive Director) co-organized RightsCon in Manila in 2015, and I personally oversaw a lot of the preparations. That looks like a big mistake. I now believe RightsCon represents everything that has gone wrong in the digital rights field. Specifically, it represents the capture of a once-vibrant movement by corporate and government interests, and a broader shift towards anti-liberal and authoritarian solutions to online challenges. I left EngageMedia on good terms, but now have no formal relationship.

In honor of this week’s RightsCon and 360/OS Summit, we dug into the #TwitterFiles to revisit the integration of the Atlantic Council’s anti-disinformation arm, the Digital Forensic Research Labs (DFRLabs), while also highlighting its relationship with weapons manufacturers, Big Oil, Big Tech, and others who fund the NATO-aligned think tank.

The Atlantic Council is unique among “non-governmental” organizations thanks to its lavish support from governments and the energy, finance, and weapons sectors. It’s been a key player in the development of the “anti-disinformation” sector from the beginning. It wasn’t an accident when its DFRLabs was chosen in 2018 to help Facebook “monitor for misinformation and foreign interference,” after the platform came under intense congressional scrutiny as a supposed unwitting participant in a Russian influence campaign. Press uniformly described DFRLabs as an independent actor that would merely “improve security,” and it was left to media watchdog FAIR to point out that the Council was and is “dead center in what former President Obama’s deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes called ‘the blob.’”

What’s “the blob”? FAIR described it as “Washington’s bipartisan foreign-policy consensus,” but thanks to the Twitter Files, we can give a more comprehensive portrait. In the runup to the 360/OS event in that same year, 2018, Graham Brookie of the Atlantic Council boasted to Twitter executives that the attendees would include the crème de la crème of international influence, people he explained resided at the “no-kidding decision-maker level”:


Categories: Tech Censorship

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