How one of America’s premier data monarchs is funding a global information war and shaping the media landscape
Through his purchase of influence over the daily flow of information to American media consumers, a dizzying array of connections to the national security state, and a media empire that shields him from critical scrutiny, Pierre Omidyar has become one of the world’s most politically sophisticated data monarchs.
by Alexander Rubinstein and Max Blumenthal
Part 5 - Another Integrity Initiative?
Omidyar’s Democracy Fund has also helped to finance the “News Integrity Initiative,” a name that evokes the U.K.’s notorious Integrity Initiative. The latter group claimed to be an independent charity battling foreign disinformation until it was exposed by hackers as a propaganda mill run by military officers and covertly funded by the British Foreign Office to cultivate public opinion in support of heightened conflict with Russia. Leaked communications revealed how the Integrity Initiative mobilized clusters of journalists, self-styled disinformation experts, academics and political figures throughout the West to advocate for a long-term war footing against the Russian menace.
For its part, the News Integrity Initiative is a murky $14 million operation intended to “combat media manipulation” through a network of “journalists, technologists, academic institutions, non-profits, and other organizations.” The set-up is eerily evocative of the influence clusters developed by the British Integrity Initiative. Few specifics are provided, however, on what the group actually does.
A hint about the agenda of the News Integrity Initiative lies in a grant of $1 million it made to an outlet called Internews in 2017. The bulk of Internews’ money — some 80 percent of it — comes from the U.S. government. It has also received backing from liberal financier George Soros and USAID, which provided the group with seed money for a Russian-language television network, helped drive the pro-NATO color revolution in the Republic of Georgia, and published footage of Russian casualties in Chechnya to erode Russian public support for the war.
In countries that are considered official and semi-official enemies of the United States, Internews has organized de facto boot camps for opposition journalists. “In the Middle East,” says Internews founder David Hoffman, “training sessions often begin with discussion of whether Internews is really U.S. propaganda or the CIA.” However Hoffman answers the question, it is abundantly clear that his outlet has advanced Washington’s priorities abroad behind the guise of independent journalism.
In November 2017, the News Integrity Initiative hosted a workshop alongside Internews and the Omidyar-backed First Draft News in Kiev, Ukraine, according to the initiative’s managing director, Molly de Aguiar. Kiev is today a nexus for intelligence-connected media crusaders and a launch pad for projects ostensibly aimed at countering Russia’s “information warfare.” But, what exactly the News Integrity Initiative was doing there was left unsaid.
While Omidyar ploughs his fortune into organizations that claim to be countering “disinformation,” especially of the Russian variety, he has established a culture factory to publicize the supposed feats of the journalists often hyped up by the cartel of media transparency groups and fact-checking sites he funds.
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