A UK dark money nonprofit with outsized influence over the digital advertising space and political sphere, which popped up seemingly out of nowhere, is run by a British operative who reportedly had dreams of being a spook in his younger years – only to surround himself with spook-adjacents in his quest to deplatform opinions that diverge from establishment orthodoxy.
As Paul Thacker writes in Tablet, Former British Labour party operative Imran Ahmed heads up the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), which in March of 2021 released a report about online misinformation that quickly reached the pre-Musk Twitter regime, and was used to silence Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who the report named as one of “The Disinformation Dozen.” The report was then cited by by the Biden administration.
“There’s about 12 people who are producing 65% of anti-vaccine misinformation on social media platforms,” claimed former White House spox-turned-MSM gaslighter Jen Psaki in July 2021.
After Robert F. Kennedy Jr. announced he was running against Biden for the Democratic nomination and appeared on Joe Rogan, Ahmed told the BBC, “He’s working really hard to keep people from knowing he’s a hardcore anti-vaxxer.” -Tablet
The report notes how Ahmed’s group, funded by all sorts of dark money, pulled off a near-impossible feat in DC – climbing to the upper echelons of influence in the DC cesspool dominated by massive think tanks and hardball lobbyists.
The scale of the CCDH’s success must be emphasized for those unfamiliar with the crowded mob of D.C.-based nonprofits churning out reports that seldom get a passing glance from the nation’s policymakers. For a tiny, unknown, nonprofit to gain so much attention in D.C.’s crowded, competitive policy space is akin to a pudgy, amateur athlete catching the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl, while setting a new world record in the marathon, all in one week.
So who is the CCDH’s founder and leader Imran Ahmed? Where does he get his money? Why did he decide to leave behind politics and start a nonprofit focused on misinformation? And perhaps most importantly, how did a relative unknown from London gain such enormous influence from the White House bully pulpit and within Democratic Party politics? -Tablet
Founded in 2018 in London, CCDH’s funding has been the focus of numerous articles, independent “X” threads, and of course, the Twitter Files, while Ahmed’s previous group, “Stop Funding Fake News,” has also come under scrutiny. The CCDH’s influence has also been covered extensively by journalist Matt Taibbi.
Thacker, a former Senate investigator for Chuck Grassley and master of rabbit holes, has just tossed a stick of dynamite into this one.
A brief summary of excerpts via Tablet:
- “Shortly after appearing on Twitter in 2019, Stop Funding Fake News claimed some very sizable left-wing scalps in London, mostly by lobbing vague accusations of fake news at political enemies. The group helped to run Jeremy Corbyn out of Labour Party leadership while tanking the lefty news site Canary, after starting a boycott of their advertisers…“
- “Although CCDH is still based in the U.K., Ahmed grew the group dramatically after he jumped across the Atlantic to incorporate CCDH as a D.C. nonprofit in 2021. In the states, he forged ties in Hollywood: Talent agent Aleen Keshishian, who teaches in the cinema program at the University of Southern California, now sits on his board.”
- “When a federal judge chastised the Biden administration for possible censorship and restricted federal agency interactions with social media companies last July, Ahmed criticized the decision in a New York Times report.“
- “Ahmed’s history is hard to track. The two groups he has run—Stop Funding Fake News and CCDH—seem to pop up out of nowhere, switch addresses, rarely disclose funders, omit naming all employees, and feature websites that change names or disappear from the internet.”
- “One rumor that came up often in the dozen or so conversations I’ve had, with people who have observed Ahmed for years, is that he works for British intelligence. Along with other questions emailed to Ahmed a couple weeks back, Tablet asked him to address the allegation he is connected to British intelligence, but he did not respond to repeated requests for comment. One of Ahmed’s long-standing friends told me that Ahmed once mentioned that he had applied to either MI5 or MI6. Because the conversation took place so long ago, the friend couldn’t remember which of the two British intelligence agencies it was, and they never later discussed if he had gotten in.“
CCDH also targeted ZeroHedge with a false report initially claiming that we were demonetized by Google for peddling hate speech, when in fact the CCDH took passages from our comments section and claimed they were the views of ZH. The report was laundered through NBC‘s “verify” fact check unit. NBC News was internationally condemned for going after a rival using CCDH research, and written by a 25-year-old (trust fund) UK journalist who has since bounced around various outlets without much in the way of actual journalism to show for it.
12. But Ahmed’s report wasn’t true. Ahmed took passages from the comments section and claimed they were articles. NBC then stealth edited their story.
This is NBC’s “verify” fact check unit, mind you. pic.twitter.com/2BGkfxsz5y
— Paul D. Thacker (@thackerpd) July 18, 2023
In short, Ahmed – who reportedly wanted to join British intelligence, has been successful at handing censorious governments talking points on ‘misinformation,’ and deplatforming anti-establishment voices by convincing advertisers to abandon outlets with disfavorable reporting.
Thacker confirmed that CCDH took in $1.47 million in 2021 after Ahmed took the helm – of which $1.1 million (nearly 75%) came from the Schwab Charitable Fund, which allows people to anonymously donate money via private accounts.
3) CCDH is running their money through Schwab Charitable Fund, that allow anonymous donors to give without leaving a paper trail. I found someone gave Ahmed $1.1 million in 2021, meaning 75% of their funding.
Ahmed won’t respond to questions. pic.twitter.com/QaVmUNgQ8K
— Paul D. Thacker (@thackerpd) October 2, 2023
Meanwhile, CCDH’s chairman is Simon Clark, a former senior fellow at the John Podesta-founded Center for American Progress (CAP), a Democrat think tank. CAP also has close ties to the Biden administration.
“Indeed, one might conclude that CCDH functions as an arm of the corporate wing of the Democratic Party, to be deployed against the perceived enemies of corporate Democrats, whether they come from the left or the right.” -Tablet
Thacker also notes that Clark was also a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Lab, which Taibbi noted is funded by various US government agencies and defense contractors, and which remains a key element to the “censorship industrial complex.”
8) Ahmed’s bridge into American politics is Simon Clark–formerly Center for American Progress and Atlantic Council.
Basically, Clark is a Democratic Party operative w/ ties to the CIA. pic.twitter.com/Wvrkzixg5K
— Paul D. Thacker (@thackerpd) October 2, 2023
According to former State Department official Mike Benz, who now runs the Foundation for Freedom online, a free speech watchdog, “The Atlantic Council, in the past several years, has had seven CIA directors on its board of directors or board of advisers,” adding “And it’s one of the premier architects of online censorship.“
Lawsuits and inquiries
The CCDH’s blazing rise to prominence as a tool of the establishment has piqued the interest of Congress amid a very public fight with Twitter which has erupted into a lawsuit.
Last July, Musk’s lawyer sent Ahmed a letter, warning him that a report CCDH put out contained false and misleading claims about Twitter’s control of hate speech on the platform. Ahmed’s research consisted of eight papers, including one alleging that Twitter had taken no action against 99% of the 100 Twitter Blue accounts that CCDH accused of “tweeting hate.”
Publicly, Ahmed ridiculed Musk’s letter, saying it was a declaration of war. Twitter then filed a lawsuit against him and CCDH. Seizing on the lawsuit, Ahmed sent out an appeal for funding, and gave a series of interviews where he claimed Musk was bullying him. -Tablet
Meanwhile, GOP Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio sent a letter to CCDH demanding they provide a list of funders, along with communications they’ve had with social media companies and federal agencies accused of censoring online content. When CCDH told Jordan to pound sand, he slapped Ahmed with a subpoena and accused them of working directly with Biden officials.
It is too early to say how congressional investigations and lawsuits involving Ahmed will end, but whatever their final outcomes, they are likely to shed more light on how an ambitious Brit came to play such a prominent role in American politics. Ahmed’s path to influence, it’s clear, relied on a new idea of expertise that has more to do with politics than technical knowledge. The fact that fly-by-night nonprofits with political motives can now be elevated into scientific authorities, says less about these groups than it does about hardball politics played by corporate Democrats in the U.S. and new Labour officials in the U.K. -Tablet
In short, stay tuned…