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The NATO to TikTok pipeline: Why is TikTok employing so many national security agents?

TikTok has become an enormously influential medium that reaches over one billion people worldwide. Having control over its algorithm or content moderation means the ability to set the terms of global debate and decide what people see. And what they don’t.

by Alan Macleod 

Part 5 - Surveillance Valley
 
This is far from the first time the national security state has pulled this trick, however. 
 
In 2018, Facebook came under enormous pressure from the U.S. government, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself being hauled in front of both the House and the Senate to face hours of grilling over the platform’s role in privacy, content moderation and spreading Russian disinformation. Only weeks after this, Facebook announced a new partnership with the Atlantic Council, whereby the group would serve as Facebook’s “eyes and ears,” taking considerable control over its content moderation, supposedly in an effort to weed out fake news and disinformation. The Atlantic Council, however, is NATO’s think tank and serves as its brain trust, with no fewer than seven former CIA directors on its board. Since then, Facebook (or Meta, as it is officially known), appointed former NATO Press Officer and current Atlantic Council Senior Fellow Ben Nimmo to serve as its head of intelligence. In addition, Facebook’s new global director of content policy, Mark Smith, was formerly employed by NATO as an advisor to its deputy commander.

The Atlantic Council has also found its way into Reddit’s management. In 2017, Jessica Ashooh went straight from being deputy director of Middle East strategy at The Atlantic Council to director of policy at the popular news aggregation service – an unusual career move that drew few remarks at the time. Like Corbeil, Koçak and others, Ashooh was a Middle East specialist and was intimately involved in the West’s war in Syria. For years, Reddit took a free-speech absolutist position, even defending hosting clearly illegal sexual content. However, Ashooh’s arrival coincided with a new era of far more forceful moderation. Reddit recently took the decision to not only ban links from Russian state media outlets, but all websites with a Russian (.ru) domain.

Likewise, a number of key Twitter personnel raise eyebrows. Chief among them is Head of Editorial for Europe, the Middle East and Africa Gordon MacMillan, who, in addition to his duties at Twitter, is an officer in the British Army’s 77th Brigade – a notorious unit dedicated to online warfare and psychological operations. Like Facebook, Twitter has partnered with some highly questionable state-linked organizations, giving them considerable influence over its content moderation.

Meanwhile, Google’s current global head of Developer Product Policy, Ben Renda, was formerly a strategic planner and information management officer for NATO, before working for both U.S. Cyber Command and the Department of Defense.

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