Who is the Atlantic Council?

(5 Frightening Facts)

Matt Orfalea
5 min readDec 17, 2018

Who decides what’s real or fake on Facebook?

To help monitor misinformation and remove “inauthentic accounts”, Facebook partnered with the Atlantic Council, a think tank that represents some of the most powerful state and corporate interests in the world.

Their board of directors includes people who have misinformed the public into war and toppled democracies. Now they’re working with Facebook to protect us from misinformation in the name of democracy.

What could go wrong?

Here’s 5 Frightening Facts about the Atlantic Council

1. Enemies of Democracy

Facebook said they’ll be working with the Atlantic Council “to protect free and fair elections across the world” but some find that hard to believe considering the council’s longest serving board member is Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state who toppled the democratic government of Chile with the CIA.

The CIA by the way has several former directors, who are also on the Atlantic Council’s board, along with former deputy CIA director, Stephen Kappes, a convicted kidnapper.

The CIA of course has a long history of overthrowing democracies and propping up dictatorships. Dictatorships kind of like the monarchies of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and United Arab Emirates, who donated millions of dollars to the Atlantic Council and don’t even pretend to give a damn about democracy

They still say it’s about democracy though. So there’s nothing to worry about because nothing nefarious has ever done in the name of democracy before…

2. Bush Buddies

The Atlantic Council’s board of directors is filled with members of the George W. Bush administration (including Stephen Hadley, Condoleezza Rice, and Colin Powell), who launched the most disastrous disinformation campaign in modern history, when they lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, lied about a connection between 9/11 and Iraq, and then got a million people killed by misleading the country to war in Iraq based on those lies.

Incredibly, the same day the council announced their partnership with Facebook, they were engaging in their own blatant disinformation campaign, praising George W. Bush with a “Distinguished International Leadership Award.”

That’s like giving the 9/11 hijackers an award for “Distinguished Aviation”.

3. Media Misinformants

Atlantic Council Vice Chair Richard Edelman is President and CEO of the largest private PR firm in the world. Edelman has been caught multiple times creating fake grassroots campaigns like the anti-union “Workers for Walmart”, which was secretly funded by Walmart, and the anti cap-and-trade Energy Citizens, whose rallies were entirely made up of paid fossil fuel employees.

Edelman has also done PR work for fellow Atlantic Council board member and billionaire media mogul, Rupert Murdoch, who is famous for misinforming the public through the hundreds of media outlets he owns, including FOX News.

Studies showed that the more people watched Rupert Murdoch’s FOX News, the more misinformed they became.

How did the Atlantic Council respond?

The Atlantic Council presented Murdoch an award for “Distinguished Leadership” — a leadership award to the guy who used his media empire to trick the public into supporting a bloody war.

This is who Facebook is letting monitor their own social media empire for misinformation.

4. War Hawks

Many members of the Atlantic Council are war hawks itching to go to war with one nation in particular.

Here’s Atlantic Council International Advisor, James Clapper painting all Russians as genetically untrustworthy.

“Just the historical practices of the Russians who typically [are] almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, whatever.”

Atlantic Council Executive Vice Chair Stephen Hadley is especially eager to go to war with Russia.

“If I were in my old job I would be thinking about lethal action, yes. But you know this is why you have a CIA.. This is why you have covert action…You know I think now we tend to talk too much and act too little. And sometimes it’s good if weapons just start showing up…”

Speaking of weapons, the council gets funding from literally the largest military contractors in the world. So that may be a factor in why they’re so trigger happy.

5. Targeting Dissidents

Before Partnering with Facebook, the Atlantic Council worked with the UK government to identify twitter accounts that they said spread disinformation.

One of those accused of being “a probable Russian disinformation account” was Ian Shilling, a British retiree who went on Sky News to clear his name.

What’s especially troubling, according to defense correspondent Alistair Bunkall, is that one of the reasons Ian’s account was identified as fake is because he posted a lot of tweets critical of the British government.

So what happens when being consistently and prolifically critical of the government gets you identified a “Russian troll farm” by The Atlantic Council?

In this case Ian’s twitter account was suspended and Atlantic Council analyst Ben Nimmo acknowledged it as a victory. But the next day Twitter notified Ian that is was a mistake and restored his account.

So, at least in this case, the open exchange of ideas necessary for any healthy democracy survived.

Final Thoughts

Since announcing their partnership with the Atlantic Council to fight misinformation, Facebook has removed hundreds of accounts for “inauthentic behavior” such as using fake accounts and spamming. These are real issues on the platform so removing accounts does not automatically mean political censorship.

But given the fact that the council gets funding from the US government, foreign governments, and large multinational corporations, it’s a legitimate concern that those interests could exert some influence over what the Atlantic Council determines to be misinformation, and which accounts get removed on Facebook.

It’s worth noting that not every single member of The Atlantic Council is a democracy toppling, war monger, kidnapper. But they certainly have an agenda, they’re not at all objective, and there’s more than enough shady characters on the board for everyone to be concerned.

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