Modern-day witchfinder general Ben Nimmo, who has fashioned a reputation as an authority on ‘Russian disinformation’ announced recently that he has begun working for Facebook in order to “lead global threat intelligence strategy against influence operations” and “emerging threats”.
Nimmo served as a press officer for Nato (2011-14) and is currently a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council – a US militarist thinktank with close ties to Nato. The thinktank is funded by western imperialist governments, Gulf dictatorships and weapons manufacturers and its luminaries include Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, alongside a mass of retired senior military figures and several former directors of the CIA.
Nimmo works within the thinktank’s digital forensic research lab (DFRLab) which, in its own words, “has operationalised the study of disinformation by exposing falsehoods and fake news”.
Social media censorship begins in earnest
In 2018, on a wave of hysteria about Russian “influence operations”, social media embraced the Atlantic Council. Facebook announced a partnership with the thinktank to “identify, expose, and explain disinformation during elections around the world”, granting the Atlantic Council and Nimmo access to the private data of billions of Facebook users.
In October of the same year, Facebook closed down hundreds of pages and personal accounts without warning for reportedly breaking rules on “spam and coordinated inauthentic behaviour”, including many belonging to the alternative media that had a history of criticising US policy at home and abroad.
In the same month, Nimmo used his investigative powers to ‘research Russian disinformation’ on Twitter, identifying alleged ‘bot’ and ‘troll’ accounts that he claimed were involved in ‘influence operations’.
Despite Nimmo’s own admission that the alleged activities “had little to no discernible impact” on voters, with “no evidence to suggest they triggered large-scale changes in political behaviour”, hysteria in the mainstream media was plentiful.
Embarrassingly for Nimmo, a number of Twitter users who had been banned after he identified them as ‘Russian bots’ came forward and revealed themselves to be real people.
Shadowy organisations disseminating western disinformation
Nimmo scored greater success as head of investigations at the data analysis company Graphika, which he joined in 2019. Graphika describes itself as “the best in the world at analysing how online social networks form, evolve, and are manipulated”. Graphika’s ‘partners’ include the Pentagon, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the US Senate’s select intelligence committee.
In the run-up to the 2019 UK general election, Jeremy Corbyn disclosed a document containing details of secret negotiations between London and Washington, some of which covered the privatisation of the NHS.
Within days, Graphika had published a report explosively claiming that the document’s leak, and Corbyn’s promotion of it, were part of a sinister and shadowy Russian disinformation operation.
While the analysis, authored by Nimmo, was rife with caveats – the release of the document merely “closely resembled” a previous alleged Russian information operation, and Graphika lacked “all the data” that would allow the firm to “make a final determination in this case” – its avowedly unsupported headline allegation was seized upon by news outlets in many countries. (Facebook’s new expert on ‘online disinformation’, Ben Nimmo, was a fantasy fiction writer. Has he really given that up? by Kit Klarenberg, RT, 8 February 2021)
While working for Graphika, Nimmo later alleged a plot by Russia to influence the 2020 US presidential election by creating a fake left-wing news organisation known by the name Peace Data. Just 5 percent of Peace Data’s English-language articles mentioned the then upcoming presidential elections. Before being shut down, Peace Data had only 14,000 followers across two Facebook pages.
On a more sinister note, leaks have revealed that Nimmo received thousands of pounds in consultancy fees and a payment of £5,000 from the British ‘Integrity Initiative’ – an international, covert network consisting of intelligence and military officers, politicians, journalists and academics who coordinate extensive and mostly anti-Russian media campaigns.
The initiative is financed mainly by the Foreign Office in Britain, the US State Department and Nato, but also, occasionally, by Facebook and various German entities. The official slogan of the covert initiative is ‘Defending democracy against disinformation’.
The ‘Integrity Initiative’ links key actors in several high-profile campaigns, including the unsolved Skripal case, alleged poison gas attacks in Syria, the discrediting of former Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, the successful prevention of a Spanish security director (nomination), the disruption of Bernie Sanders’ presidential election campaign, and other operations.
In more than a dozen countries, national ‘clusters’ had already been set up by the ‘Integrity Initiative’. In Germany, for example, the national ‘cluster’ was (or is) led by a former MI6 officer. (The Integrity Initiative, Swiss Policy Research, updated January 2020)
Despite Nimmo’s bungling incompetence, his employment at Facebook is a timely reminder that big tech is embracing the drive to war with Russia and China.