Day after day, so-called fact checkers discover new false reports. In times of Corona they have a boom. Many media like to invoke the Guardians of truth in branding false news from the circle of so-called alternative media. What is striking is that the position of power of the fact checkers is never questioned. These are often treated as neutral and reputable sources, although in reality many are not.
An international network
Misinformation and Propaganda are nothing new. In the context of the US presidential campaign 2015/2016, the topic of Fake News came to the center of attention. The background was true revelations about Hillary Clinton that Wikileaks had published during the election campaign. However, false information about the presidential candidates was also put into the world. All this happened at a time when big media was already struggling with credibility losses.
In a possible election victory for Trump, traditionally powerful lobbies saw democracy in danger. The so-called fight against Fake News was mainly directed against Trump. Accordingly, the fact checkers scrutinized Trump’s statements. A “fact-Checker” of the “Washington Post” proved Trump about four false claims per day. But in world affairs, the major fact-checking networks primarily target divergent opinions that challenge US supremacy.
Some fact checkers founded the so-called International Fact-Checking Network. This network focuses rather unilaterally on Russian entities, which according to the US government are the main perpetrators of manipulations and false reports.
The network now includes numerous fact checker organizations that monitor the information. In German – speaking countries, for example, “Correctiv” - for this, the platform had to be certified as a certified partner by the Poynter Institute (see below). The European Union is established in 2015, specifically the “East StratCom Task Force” which was charged with Monitoring the Russian press organs. The Tech giants Facebook and Google also joined this goal.
Institute as certifier with political impact
A look at the major players in the truth-finding market shows that many are pursuing a political Agenda. The efforts of the fact checkers are coordinated and certified by the Poynter Institute. This Florida journalism school has been running the International Fact-Checking Network since the end of 2015. According to its own information, the network is sponsored by, among others, the following institutions:
The US government-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED);
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation;
Google News Initiative;
George Soros Open Society Foundation.
The German Journalist Paul Schreyer commented: “in the fight against “Fake News” you are well protected by influential elites, as well as the US government.”
What is striking about the Poynter Institute, as well as all its financial supporters, is its ever-critical view of Russia. For example, in the past, the Institute promoted the tool Hamilton 68 – more recently known as the Hamilton 2.0 Dashboard. This aimed to expose Russian Propaganda. The project was launched by the German Marshall Fund and runs under the name"Allianz zur Sicherung der Demokratie". The Allianz advisory board includes people like Michael Chertoff and Bill Kristol. Chertoff served as secretary of Homeland Security in the United States from 2005 to 2009. He also sits on the board of Directors of the multinational defence and aviation group BAE Systems. Kristol is a neoconservative Hardliner who supported the US invasion of Iraq.
In the service of US foreign policy
A look at the biggest sponsors of the fact checkers is worthwhile. Foundations such as the NED (National Endowment for Democracy) or Soros' Open Society are known to support the US administration’s foreign policy goals. In the past, they played a crucial role in supporting opposition movements in countries where US-hostile governments were in power and which were accordingly on the firing list of US rulers. That’s what Wikileaks revelations exposed.
The NED was founded under US President Reagan, following the ideas of then CIA chief Bill Casey, to conduct covert operations in foreign countries. Co-founder Allen Weinstein said in 1991 about the NED: “a lot of what we do was done covertly by the CIA 25 years ago.“Several US neoconservatives sit on the board of NED. The NED is funded by the US Congress with huge sums of money year after year. She was also involved in the preparation and support of several color revolutions in Eastern Europe.
Omidyar and the U.S. elites
Far less known to a wider public is Ebay founder and billionaire Pierre Omidyar. Omidyar owns a colossal network of organizations. He supports countless media as well as a global cartel of self-appointed fact-checking groups. His group is also the biggest sponsor of Correctiv. Among the more well-known media portals owned by Omidyar is the news Website The Intercept. The Omidyar Group includes the Ulupono Initiative, Humanity United, Hopelab Luminate, Omidyar Network, First Look Media as well as the Democracy Fund. Yasha Levine, US-critical Journalist and author of the book “Surveillance Valley": The Secret History of the Internet, wrote about Omidyar:
“In today’s dispute over Silicon Valley’s contracts with the US military and intelligence services, the focus is on Facebook, Google and Amazon-while Pierre Omidyar’s eBay has been completely ignored. But Omidyar was at the forefront of building Silicon Valley’s global private-public surveillance apparatus. Over the past decade, Omidyar has quietly worked to extend eBay’s privatized surveillance state model beyond online sales to elections, media, transportation, education, finance, and government administration. His vehicle for this is the Omidyar Group, an investment vehicle that finances hundreds of Start-ups, companies and non-profit organizations around the world.”
What is striking about Omidyar’s network is its constant proximity to the US government. In a detailed research on the Ebay founder, investigative journalists Max Blumenthal, Founder and editor-in-chief of the online platform “the Grayzone”, and Alexander Rubinstein, who also works for “the Grayzone” as well as occasionally for the Russian state broadcaster RT and for Sputnik, described these connections as follows::
“Pierre Omidyar worked closely with many US-funded organizations that took on the role of the CIA from the Cold War. They support opposition media and civil society in countries where regime change is intended.”
Just a few examples: Omidyars Democracy Fund sometimes financed the already mentioned Alliance for Securing Democracy of the German Marshall Fund and the anti-Russian project tool Hamilton 68. Omidyars money also led to the founding of the online magazine the Bulwark. The Portal was founded by the neoconservative Bill Kristol. Omidyar also works closely with organizations such as the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and NED. In the words of Max Blumenthal and Alexander Rubinstein, Omidyar acts as a facilitator for projects that run information campaigns in countries around the world. Omidyar has helped build a network of opposition youth activists and bloggers in Zimbabwe, and in the Philippines he has invested in an opposition news site. Both countries where democracy is trampled underfoot.
Google and co. are not above suspicion
The tech giants Google and Facebook also play an important role in the battle for interpretation sovereignty. Both also stand out due to their proximity to the US government. Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt was appointed chairman of a Pentagon advisory panel by the US Secretary of defense in 2016. He still holds the position today. His long-time close confidant Jared Cohen, head of Google’s “Jigsaw” think tank, worked on the planning staff of the US State Department from 2006 to 2010. First under Condoleezza Rice, then under Hillary Clinton. In 2015, Google founded the fact checker platform first Draft and Google News Lab in cooperation with Facebook, Twitter, Soros’ Open Society Foundation, the Knight Foundation and others. The Tech giant itself played a role in the election campaign between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Analyses of search results on Google show that the results generated between May and November 2016 clearly favored Hillary Clinton.
Facebook, in turn, has been working with the fact checkers since 2017. This came after Mark Zuckerberg’s company came under increasing pressure in the course of the 2016 US election campaign. The accusation was that lies and disinformation were spread through the social network. In the fight against Fake News Facebook cooperates closely with Western governments as well as with the think tank Atlantic Council. This is part of the US power apparatus. The think tank has developed a Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRL) specifically to combat false information and Russian Propaganda. The laboratory focuses on dissidents on the Internet who criticize the USA. In the field of fire are particularly those from states whose governments are on the shooting list of the US government-for example from Iran or Venezuela. In collaboration with the Lab, Facebook – as well as Twitter – has regularly deleted accounts of critics. Facebook is also one of the sponsors of the “Integrity Initiative”. A campaign in which Western intelligence services are involved and which use psychological warfare to create a mood against Russia. Officially, Russian disinformation is being fought.
From the Poynter Institute to the Tech giants Google and Facebook, the Guardians have something in common about the “right” information: they are all characterized by selective perception and proximity to the US government. This is not helpful in combating false information, which is undoubtedly omnipresent. After all, these are not just a “Russian” phenomenon. Propaganda knows no national borders. All powerful States use techniques of Manipulation. In the past, the USA also spread many targeted half – truths and also Fake News, and they still do so today-often more professionally and ingeniously than Russia or China.