It is not yet clear whether Elon Musk’s increasingly precarious play for Twitter will result in the restoration of free speech in the “global public square.” Successful or not, Elon’s brave move has clarified beyond any doubt the Regime’s fundamental hostility to free speech and dissent. Judging from the critical reactions from journalists, NGOs and Democrat politicians, you’d think the man were attempting to invade Poland rather than remove censorship on a social media platform.
(Article republished from Revolver.news)
Of all the regime scribblers and scribes flooding the internet with glorified blog posts on the awfulness of Elon Musk’s Twitter bid, a piece by Renée DiResta published in the Atlantic stands out from the rest — not because of its force of argument, but because of the largely forgotten scandal behind its author.
Like the now disgraced and jobless Nina Jankowicz, DiResta is a career-girl of the Disinformation Industry — a constellation of NATO and US State Department-funded NGOs and civil society groups that censor inconvenient truths, facts and narratives under the guise of protecting the public from so-called “disinformation.” And like Nina Jankowicz, it turns out that DiResta’s name is closely associated with one of the most explosive and aggressively covered-up influence operations of the century.
With that teaser in place, let’s start at the beginning with DiResta’s piece on Musk and Twitter. We invite the impatient reader to scroll down to DiResta’s scandal — but it’s worth the wait for those with more patience.
Like most well-trained operatives of the disinformation industry, Renée is smart enough to couch her defense of Twitter’s censorship in layers of obfuscatory verbiage and heavily qualified lip service to the importance of free-expression. We should remember that even the Department of Homeland Security assured us in a hilarious “fact sheet” that its ill-fated Disinformation Governance Board is set up to defend free speech.
But anything more than a cursory look at Diresta’s “concerned” reaction to Musk and his cadre of “free-speech absolutists” completely betrays her true agenda. Here she is scribbling away in the Atlantic (emphasis ours):
The idea of Twitter as the “global town square” was articulated by then-CEO Dick Costolo in 2013. He likened it to something from ancient Athens:
Thousands of years ago in the Greek Agora, that’s where you went to find out what was going on and talk about it, right? You came and talked about what was going on in your part of the village, and I came and talked about what was going on in mine, and the politician was there, and we listened to the issues of the day, and a musician was there and a preacher was there, et cetera, and it was multidirectional and it was unfiltered, and it was inside out, meaning the news was coming from the people it was happening to, not some observer.
The unintended consequences of the platform that Jack Dorsey and his co-founders built, however, came into rather stark relief as it grew; a variety of unfortunate things that happen when humans engage with humans happened. On Twitter, however, these problems reached unprecedented heights via unfettered virality and velocity. The Islamic State made a home on the platform; harassment mobs proliferated; state actors and conspiracy theorists alike recognized that Twitter was a remarkable venue for propagandizing, unmediated, to millions. Public opinion began to shift against the hands-off approach. Government regulators began to pay attention.
How could the company maximize freedom of expression while minimizing the unique harms that the new communication infrastructure had enabled? A content-moderation regime emerged. Over the next seven years, its rules and practices would evolve in response to new and novel challenges: taking down terrorist propaganda, minimizing bad information during a pandemic, handling a litany of rumors and lies about election theft.
Let’s put aside DiResta’s daft use of the passive voice for a moment and take a second to appreciate how radical this passage is. The author just lumped in terrorist propaganda — specifically, ISIS propaganda — with Covid skepticism and skepticism pertaining to election integrity. Given that this is the Regime’s perspective, it is much easier to understand not only why something like the Disinformation Governance Board would exist in the first place, but why it would be housed within the Department of Homeland Security — one of the largest national security bureaucracies set up in the aftermath of 9/11 to protect the nation from terrorism.
If Covid skeptics, election skeptics, and by extension nearly half of America can be lumped in with ISIS on the basis of their political beliefs, it makes sense that the national security bureaucracy would be turned inward in order to crush the ISIS-level national security threat of Americans who oppose vaccine mandates or, God forbid, don’t think the 2020 election was fair. As we pointed out in earlier pieces, the Disinformation Industry is assigned to carry out the information warfare component of this domestic war on terror — to silence important speech on important matters central to democratic deliberation under the guise of “Defending Democracy against Disinformation.”
Renée, in her piece, is desperate to protect the Regime and its disinformation commissars from the supposed ISIS-level threat of free-speech on Twitter. She goes on to attack Musk and his “free speech absolutists” and to reject the notion of a “digital public square” in its entirety (emphasis ours):
Since the advent of more active content moderation on Twitter and other online platforms, the prototypical public square has been retconned—particularly by Musk’s supporters in the United States—into a haven for absolute free speech. This is not accurate. The real public square has always been moderated. Public-nuisance laws and noise ordinances have long placed restrictions on the time, place, and manner of expression protected by the First Amendment. Try to get a group of 100 ideological allies together to follow someone around a public park in the center of town shrieking at them, and see how that plays out.
Of course this is incredibly disingenuous. Noise ordinances and “public nuisance laws” simply do not analogize to narrative-level censorship on Covid, election results, and other such issues on social media.
Tellingly, in an earlier (and less guarded) piece for the Atlantic, DiResta not only encourages narrative-level political censorship on social media, she also claims that there is no political bias to social media censorship practices. DiResta insists that since misinformation overwhelmingly comes from the political right, this gives the false appearance that social media companies are biased against the right when they censor misinformation. Read the following passage and behold the twisted logic of a modern day commissar (emphasis ours):
The distinct behavior of serial spreaders of misinformation should theoretically make them easy for Facebook or Twitter to identify. Platforms that place warning labels on false or misleading content could penalize accounts that repeatedly create it; after an account earned a certain number of strikes, the platform’s algorithms could suspend it or limit users’ ability to share its posts. But platforms also want to appear politically neutral. Inconveniently for them, our research found that although some election-related misinformation circulated on the left, the pattern of the same accounts repeatedly spreading false or misleading claims about voting, or about the legitimacy of the election itself, occurred almost exclusively among pro-Trump influencers, QAnon boosters, and other outlets on the right. We were not the only ones to observe this; researchers at Harvard described the former president and the right-wing media as driving a “disinformation campaign” around mail-in voter fraud during the 2020 election; the researchers’ prior work had meticulously detailed a “propaganda feedback loop” within the closely linked right-wing media ecosystem.
In this piece we see reference to the same narratives, election integrity and Covid skepticism, that DiResta previously lumped in with ISIS and terrorism, perpetrated by vaguely defined alleged malefactors like “QAnon boosters” (whatever that is) and, Heaven forfend, “pro-Trump influencers.” DiResta backs up her shocking claim, that misinformation is essentially a right-wing problem, with a Harvard study. Without wasting too much of our time on it, we dug up the specific Harvard study DiResta references.
Immediately we note that the Harvard study DiResta cites in support of her remarkable claim that misinformation is exclusively a right-wing problem is funded by George Soros’ Open Society Institute, among other similar “philanthropic” organizations. Note the bottom footnote in the first page of the study, titled “Mail-In Voter Fraud: Anatomy of a Disinformation Campaign”:
Apart from the farce of such a study being funded by George Soros, among other similar figures, there’s a very important passage buried in the study that inadvertently exposes the entire ulterior purpose of the Disinformation Industry. Here’s a transcript of the relevant passage:
Our results are based on analyzing over 55 thousand online media stories, five million tweets, and 75 thousand posts on public Facebook pages garnering millions of engagements. They are consistent with our findings about the American political media ecosystem from 2015-2018, published in Network Propaganda, in which we found that Fox News and Donald Trump’s own campaign were far more influential in spreading false beliefs than Russian trolls or Facebook clickbait artists.
Despite all the posturing about “Russia”, we see that the fight against disinformation was never really about addressing an alleged threat of foreign influence. According to the Disinformation Industrial-Complex, Donald Trump is a bigger purveyor of “false beliefs” than Russia, and therefore, by implication, Trump and his supporters deserve to be identified, silenced, and destroyed in much the same way a foreign disinformation threat would be. It is perhaps not surprising then that DiResta would so cavalierly respond to Trump being banned from his main communications platform while a sitting President of the United States:
So many folks spent the last day asking “What if Twitter bans Trump?”
My prediction was that the obvious happens – on social, he creates a Parler account (I personally think the frog platform is prob still a bridge too far), but that he also just leverages OANN/Newsmax.
— Renee DiResta (@noUpside) January 8, 2021
Of course, DiResta’s remark about Parler turned out to be insufficiently optimistic from the Disinformation censor’s point of view. Parler went dark just days after Trump’s Twitter ban after Amazon Web Services famously pulled the plug on them.
As we promised the reader in our introduction, the story of Renée DiResta is far more scandalous than a hypocritical disinformation operative calling for mass censorship. Readers will recall that Nina Jankowicz’ name came up in a major leak as an associate of the Integrity Initiative, a NATO, US State Department, UK government-funded influence operation that secretly meddled in the political affairs of NATO Democracies. While we don’t know whether DiResta was associated with the Integrity Initiative, she was involved in something equally if not more scandalous.
DiResta’s Dark Alabama Secret
Before DiResta was complaining about the threat of Elon Musk’s “free speech absolutism” in the pages of the Atlantic, she worked (among other things) as a research director for a cyber security firm called New Knowledge.
New Knowledge’s purpose was to study the spread of disinformation, “malign narratives” and Russian influence operations. In her capacity as Research Director for New Knowledge, DiResta submitted written testimony to the US Senate drawing attention to the danger of such Russian disinformation and influence operations, including the alleged Russian “troll farm” Internet Research Agency — which every self-respecting disinformation operative knows to puff up as the most malign and consequential political influence operation in modern history.
But there is one very important secretive, malign influence operation that Renée DiResta failed to disclose to the Senate. This influence operation was conducted by her own employer, New Knowledge, to influence the outcome of the 2017 Alabama special Senate contest between populist Roy Moore and Doug Jones. The details of the influence operation are even more scandalous. In what even the head of New Knowledge described as a “false flag” operation, New Knowledge conducted a secret influence operation to make it look like populist candidate Roy Moore was the beneficiary of a secret Russian influence operation!
The New York Times of all places broke the story of this remarkable and now-forgotten scandal:
As Russia’s online election machinations came to light last year, a group of Democratic tech experts decided to try out similarly deceptive tactics in the fiercely contested Alabama Senate race, according to people familiar with the effort and a report on its results.
The secret project, carried out on Facebook and Twitter, was likely too small to have a significant effect on the race, in which the Democratic candidate it was designed to help, Doug Jones, edged out the Republican, Roy S. Moore. But it was a sign that American political operatives of both parties have paid close attention to the Russian methods, which some fear may come to taint elections in the United States.
One participant in the Alabama project, Jonathon Morgan, is the chief executive of New Knowledge, a small cyber security firm that wrote a scathing account of Russia’s social media operations in the 2016 election that was released this week by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
An internal report on the Alabama effort, obtained by The New York Times, says explicitly that it “experimented with many of the tactics now understood to have influenced the 2016 elections.”
The project’s operators created a Facebook page on which they posed as conservative Alabamians, using it to try to divide Republicans and even to endorse a write-in candidate to draw votes from Mr. Moore. It involved a scheme to link the Moore campaign to thousands of Russian accounts that suddenly began following the Republican candidate on Twitter, a development that drew national media attention.
“We orchestrated an elaborate ‘false flag’ operation that planted the idea that the Moore campaign was amplified on social media by a Russian botnet,” the report says.
Mr. Morgan said in an interview that the Russian botnet ruse “does not ring a bell,” adding that others had worked on the effort and had written the report. He said he saw the project as “a small experiment” designed to explore how certain online tactics worked, not to affect the election.
Mr. Morgan said he could not account for the claims in the report that the project sought to “enrage and energize Democrats” and “depress turnout” among Republicans, partly by emphasizing accusations that Mr. Moore had pursued teenage girls when he was a prosecutor in his 30s.
“The research project was intended to help us understand how these kind of campaigns operated,” said Mr. Morgan. “We thought it was useful to work in the context of a real election but design it to have almost no impact.”
The Times obtained a statement from DiResta, who acknowledged her role in the influence operation in a heavily finessed fashion:
Mr. Morgan reached out at the time to Renée DiResta, who would later join New Knowledge and was lead author of the report on Russian social media operations released this week.
“I know there were people who believed the Democrats needed to fight fire with fire,” Ms. DiResta said, adding that she disagreed. “It was absolutely chatter going around the party.”
But she said Mr. Morgan simply asked her for suggestions of online tactics worth testing. “My understanding was that they were going to investigate to what extent they could grow audiences for Facebook pages using sensational news,” she said.
So let’s get this straight: Renée DiResta, who makes a living “researching” so-called Russian disinformation and influence operations, and who testified before the Senate regarding such, was caught red-handed acting as an advisor, if not participant, to an influence operation designed to discredit an American politician by planting false stories that he’s a beneficiary of a Russian influence operation! Rather than bow her head in shame and find a new career (perhaps joining disgraced Nina Jankowicz’s wizard rock band), DiResta shrugs it off and goes on to work in a senior role for the company most closely associated with the influence operation in which she played a part.
What’s still more remarkable is the attempt of not only New Knowledge’s executive director, but the New York Times itself to minimize this scandal on account of the allegedly “minimal” impact it had on the Alabama Senate election (emphasis ours):
“The research project was intended to help us understand how these kind of campaigns operated,” said Mr. Morgan. “We thought it was useful to work in the context of a real election but design it to have almost no impact.”
The project had a budget of just $100,000, in a race that cost approximately $51 million, including the primaries, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Interesting argument. About that infamous Internet Research Agency “Russian troll farm” that was the basis of the entire Mueller report and the entire Democrat party and regime media howling non-stop about Russia — it spent a grand total of $46k on Facebook ads in the 2016 election.
Remarkably, this means that the disinformation group Renée DiResta worked for spent more money on its false flag operation, which involved falsely framing a US senate candidate as a beneficiary of Russian influence operation, than the original Russian troll farm which is the basis for the whole Disinformation Industry scam in the first place!
The exposure of the Alabama influence operation was so egregious that more careful operatives in the Disinformation Industry took notice and began to do damage control.
Two leading figures in the Disinformation Industry directly attacked and condemned the Alabama “false flag” influence operation in which DiResta participated.
In a panel discussion titled “Disinformation in Social Media as a Threat to Democratic Institutions”, Disinformation Industry operative Alina Polyakova brought attention to the Alabama operation as an example of “Russian-style disinformation tactics” being used domestically by US operatives and organizations:
This firm, which was actually given a contract by Senate Intelligent Committee to write a major report on IRA (the Russian troll farm)… actually used the same techniques that the Russians used to try to shift the elections in the special senatorial elections in Alabama last year. What they did is they set up fake Russian accounts, fake Russian trolls, fake Russian bots, to make it seem like the Russians were supporting the Republican candidate (Roy Moore)…
Renée DiResta’s Alabama “false flag” was so embarrassing to the Disinformation Industry that Alina Polyakova’s colleague, Ambassador Daniel Fried (also a high-level operative of the Disinformation Industry), felt compelled to pile on the condemnation still more forcefully:
That awful example of an American group creating a false example of Russian disinformation campaign in the Alabama election reminds me, should remind us all… the temptation of evil is in front of every person.
I hope that this example has become so scandalous and discredited that no one dares do it again.
Ambassador Daniel Fried and his colleague Alina Polyakova are as high ranked as it gets within the Disinformation Industry hierarchy. Dan Fried is also a former senior level official in the State Department as Assistant Secretary of European and Eurasian affairs. According to his bio at the Atlantic Council (the NATO, US State Department-funded NGO where he is now a Distinguished Fellow), Fried was both a major figure in crafting the policy of NATO expansion and a key architect of US sanctions policy against Russia.
The fact that one of the architects of both NATO expansion and our sanctions policy toward Russia should also be one of the key players in pushing Social Media companies to address the threat of “disinformation” is a remarkable fact in its own right. Leaving that aside, for now, one would think that such strong condemnation of DiResta’s Alabama operation from such a high-level player in the Disinformation Industry would have some consequences for DiResta.
In fact, the opposite is the case. Being a disinformation operative evidently means never having to say you’re sorry.
Despite Ambassador Dan Fried’s performative condemnation of DiResta’s Alabama operation, he saw fit to approvingly cite her as an authority in his 2020 publication (co-authored with Alina Polakova) “Democratic Offense Against Disinformation.”
Perhaps even more remarkable is the fact that DiResta’s work is cited in an official Department of Homeland Security memo on “combatting targeted disinformation campaigns.”
It is not too surprising that the Department of Homeland Security would cite someone like DiResta, who is known to have participated in a targeted disinformation campaign, in a DHS document on targeted disinformation campaigns. As Revolver News recently reported, Nina Jankowicz, the one-time nominee to be the head of the DHS’ ill-fated Disinformation Governance Board, appeared in a major leak of internal documents belonging to the Integrity Initiative, a NATO and US State Department-funded group that conducted covert campaigns on Twitter to meddle in the political affairs of NATO Democracies.
Incidentally, the Integrity Initiative leaks included a list of NGOs and media outlets deemed to be friendly to its operations. One of the organizations deemed to be friendly to and in close collaboration with the Integrity Initiative is a group called the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA).
Take a wild guess who is the President and CEO of CEPA? If you guessed Alina Polyakova, you would be correct! Yes… the same Alina Polyakova who in the video clip above performatively condemns DiResta’s Alabama influence operation is the President and CEO of an organization revealed in leaked documents to be “partnering with” the Integrity Initiative, one of the most scandalous influence operations in our nation’s history!
Perhaps this is why Alina Polyakova and her colleague and co-author Ambassador Dan Fried are comfortable citing DiResta’s work in their aforementioned “Democratic Offense Against Disinformation” report.
In fact, CEPA co-sponsored that very same report:
Notice that CEPA co-sponsored the report with the Atlantic Council’s DFR Lab, which is also listed in the leaked Integrity Initiative documents as a friendly organization (see reference to DFR Lab’s “digital sherlocks” in the document below). In fact, the head of the DFR Lab at the time, Ben Nimmo (now a senior employee at Facebook investigating influence operations), appeared alongside Nina Jankowicz, Anne Applebaum and others as members of the Integrity Initiative’s UK “inner cluster.”
When it comes to Alina Polyakova and Ambassador Dan Fried implicitly condemning DiResta for her role in the Alabama operation, it is perhaps appropriate to suggest the following guideline: Let the Disinformation researcher who hasn’t worked for an anti-disinformation group caught red-handed using disinformation as a pretext to conduct secretive influence operations meddling in politics of Western democracies cast the first stone.
Since her role in the Alabama influence op was exposed, Renée DiResta has enjoyed far more accolades than simply being favorably cited by the DHS and fellow Disinformation operatives. Renée DiResta has moved from being lead researcher of New Knowledge (the group involved in the Alabama op) to being research director at Stanford’s Internet Research Laboratory.
A full treatment of the Stanford Internet Research Laboratory would extend beyond the scope of this already rather lengthy report. Suffice it to say that in addition to NGOs such as CEPA and Atlantic Council’s DFR Lab, many major universities now host similar think tanks to engage in “Disinformation” research — and of course it’s all the same scam of using “disinformation” as a pretext to censor and control perfectly legitimate First Amendment-protected speech online. Harvard has the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, as well as the Shorenstein Center for Media, Politics, and Public Policy, while Stanford has the Internet Research Laboratory, where Renée DiResta now works as research director (emphasis ours):
Renée DiResta and Alex Stamos lead research on social media disinformation at the Stanford Internet Observatory. Their current project, The Election Integrity Partnership is a coalition of research entities focused on supporting real-time information exchange between the research community, election officials, government agencies, civil society organizations and social media platforms. Together they aim to detect and mitigate the impact of attempts to prevent or deter people from voting or to delegitimize election results. Stamos, previously the Chief Security Officer at Facebook, is the director of the Observatory, while DiResta serves as research manager.
In an all-too typical example of failing up, Renée DiResta goes from being caught red-handed as involved in a disinformation operation that meddled in a United States Senate election by falsely framing the candidate as a favorite of Russian bots, to overseeing an “Election Integrity Partnership” under the auspices of Stanford University.
Read more at: Revolver.news