Revealed: Dark Money Funders Behind 'Disinformation Dozen' Report

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Originally published on by Brenda Baletti, Ph.D.

A new exposé by GreenMedInfo's Sayer Ji traces the donors to the Center for Countering Digital Hate to media empires, government and political influence networks.

A new report published Monday by GreenMedInfo revealed nine of the dark money sources funding the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), an influential nonprofit that allegedly colluded with social media platforms and the White House to censor Children's Health Defense (CHD), Robert F. Kennedy Jr., CHD's chairman on leave and others for spreading "disinformation."

The report identified CCDH's funders primarily as U.K.-based philanthropic organizations whose directors and trustees are affiliated with legacy media organizations, the U.K. government and major global philanthropic organizations such as the Open Society Foundations and the Ford Foundation.

Despite claims by Imran Ahmed, CCDH's CEO and founder, that the organization has "never taken government money," the report also found at least one of its funders has received U.K. government funding.

"It appears that CCDH may be an astroturf front operation for both NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] and the U.K. government to directly interfere with and target the constitutional rights of U.S. citizens, and this should be a concern for all Americans," report author Sayer Ji told The Defender.

CCDH famously drafted a list of the so-called "Disinformation Dozen," which included Kennedy, Dr. Joseph Mercola, the founders of The Truth About Vaccines and The Truth About Cancer websites Ty and Charlene Bollinger, and Ji, founder of the natural health website GreenMedInfo.

CCDH alleged in its report that just 12 accounts produced the majority of "anti-vaccine disinformation" on social media.

Facebook investigated and dismissed the report, releasing a statement saying that "There isn't any evidence" to support its claims and that the small sample used in CCDH's analysis was "in no way representative of the hundreds of millions of posts that people have shared about COVID-19 vaccines."

"There is no justification for [CCDH's] claim that their data constitute a 'representative sample' of the content shared across our apps," Facebook stated.

Yet, the report was used by the White House and Twitter to censor those individuals and by legacy media outlets such as NPRThe Guardian and countless others to discredit the people on the list.

Despite its baseless claims, the report was extremely effective, Ji said.

Ji told The Defender:

"CCDH's factually baseless campaign was amplified and disseminated globally by hundreds of colluding media outlets, such that today you can find over 3,400 news articles online uncritically citing their defamatory construct 'disinformation dozen.'

"This has wrought profound reputational damage, and has dramatically curtailed our ability to share our message, given that over 2 million of our followers have been removed, following the deplatforming efforts of those spreading these lies."

In Kennedy's testimony before a U.S. House of Representatives hearing organized by the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government last week, he cited his inclusion on CCDH's list as part of a "new form of censorship, which is called 'targeted propaganda,' where people apply pejoratives like 'anti-vax' … to silence me."

The latest "Twitter Files" released July 18 by investigative journalist Paul D. Thacker detailed how Twitter and the White House used CCHD's "Disinformation Dozen" report as justification for censoring the people on the list.

Thacker also profiled Ahmed, who previously worked for Merrill Lynch and was a British Labour Party political operative, and is the co-author of "The New Serfdom: The Triumph of Conservative Ideas and How to Defeat Them… ." Ahmed emerged during the pandemic as a "vaccine and disinformation expert," although lacking any experience that would qualify him as such, Thacker reported.

Thacker raised questions about who funds CCDH and reached out to the organization to investigate, but received no response.

Ji's report published Monday provides a partial answer to that question, seeking to "contribute to the collective effort to shed a sterilizing light on the dark agenda spear-headed by astroturfing organizations like CCDH," he wrote in the report.

CCDH's funders primarily global but U.K.-based nonprofits

Although CCDH does not make its funders publicly available and failed to respond to Thacker's inquiries, Ji was able to identify some of them by examining the public grant-reporting website 360 GrantNav, along with other publicly available sites, including CCDH's 2020 website archived on the Wayback Machine.

The funders identified are primarily U.K.-based charities, some of which operate globally and generally contribute to a wide variety of causes that cluster around issues of environment and poverty, rather than health or science.

According to the report, the Paul Hamlyn Foundation in 2021 gave CCDH a £100,000 grant earmarked for "growing the digital presence and impact of the Center for Countering Digital Hate." The foundation's trustees include the former general-director of the BBC Tony Hall, Baron Hall of Birkenhead, and Sir Anthony Saltz, formerly on BBC's board of governors.

The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, a large U.K. charity with a £1.5 billion endowment, whose mission is "to improve the natural world, create a fairer future and strengthen community bonds in the UK," gave CCDH £200,000 in October 2021 to support a salary at the organization and to "disrupt the spread of online hate and misinformation." It awarded CCDH a second £13,333 grant in January of this year.

The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, which, according to the report, is a U.K.-based limited company -- not a charity and therefore able to fund political causes -- gave CCDH £53,400 in 2020.

CCDH is also funded by the Oak Foundation, a global environmentalist grantmaking foundation that gave CCDH $100,000 to help it shine a "spotlight on digital misinformation platforms that are polluting the public discourse."

CCDH reported on its website that it received an undisclosed amount of money from the Barrow Cadbury Trust, whose mission is to "tackle profound social ills, including juvenile crime and urban poverty."

The Pears Foundation, a U.K. charity that Ji's report says focuses on "Israel-related projects" gave CCDH £250,000 over three years. The foundation is funded by the William Pears group and the U.K. government, according to the report.

The Hopewell Fund is a U.S.-based 501(c)(3) organization managed by a Washington, D.C.-based philanthropy consulting firm and is dedicated to funding "innovative social change projects." It gave CCDH a small $15,000 grant in 2021.

Unbound Philanthropy, the final donor identified by the report, is a New York-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose executive director Taryn Higashi also sits on the advisory board of Soros' Open Society Foundations and who formerly worked at the Ford Foundation.

But this is just a partial list, and in his report, Ji appealed to the public to continue researching the "dark money" behind the organization.

Ji also invited readers to take action on the Stand for Health Freedom campaign website "to send the message that the targeting of U.S. citizens to illegally suppress protected speech is unacceptable."

The Defender examined CCDH's 990 -- the tax form nonprofits must file annually with the IRS -- from fiscal year 2021, where the organization reported receiving $1,471,247 in contributions and grants and listed $860,457 in total assets.

The list of contributors was marked as "restricted," and further information was not provided. It did report spending $12,633 on "lobbying activities."

While The Defender was only able to find the single 2021 federal form 990, we did locate CCDH's U.K. financial reporting form for fiscal year 2022 (ending Oct. 31, 2022), showing the organization received $904,452 from donations in 2022 and $638,499 in 2021.

Financial filings also reveal CCDH board member affiliations

The U.S. 990, the U.K. financial statements and the U.K.'s company information service also revealed CCDH's frequently changing board members and directors, many of whom have close ties to government and media organizations.

Notable figures include Simon Clark, board chair, who was a resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab. The Atlantic Council is a NATO, arms industry and Persian Gulf monarchies-funded think tank.

Prior to his work at the Atlantic Council, Clark was a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, where he led the work that informed the Biden White House's National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism.

Ji found it "unsurprising" that "CCDH's rhetorical points made it into several U.S. Department of Homeland Security terrorism bulletins equating free speech and open debate about mRNA vaccine safety and efficacy, or Covid origins, as possible new forms of domestic terrorism."

Another CCDH director, Kirsty McNeill has also worked as Save the Children's executive director for Policy, Advocacy and Campaigns since 2016, a period during which the Bill & Melinda Foundation donated more than $40 million to the organization.

Save the Children has also partnered with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Gavi maintains a core partnership with the World Health Organization and the World Bank.

McNeill previously worked as a special adviser and speechwriter for former Prime Minister Gordon Brown. She is a member of the think tank European Council on Foreign Relations, funded by such entities as the Open Society Foundations, the United Nations and the Gates Foundation.

Aleen Keshishian and Zack Morgenroth are both CCDH board members and work at Lighthouse Management & Media, a Hollywood management agency representing top stars including Jennifer Aniston, who famously cut ties with her unvaccinated friends.

Damian Noel Thomas Collins, who joined CCDH in 2022, is a British Conservative Party politician who formerly served as a junior Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.

CCDH sought to silence the voices that were 'most effective' at warning the public

In addition to its government, social media and legacy media connections, CCDH has partnered with "fact-checking" firm NewsGuard -- specifically, its HealthGuard product, described as "a vaccine against medical misinformation" and against critiques targeting the healthcare industry and global public health authorities.

According to an article by Off-Guardian, CCDH claimed the COVID-19 pandemic "will only be overcome by the most ambitious vaccination programme in human history" and those who question this program have "fringe and extremist views," which "should not be permitted and should indeed be banned."

They have also advocated for the imprisonment of "anti-vaxxers."

Ji told The Defender that CCDH's targeted campaign spoke to the validity of the ideas of those it sought to deplatform.

He said:

"George R. R. Martin once said, 'When you tear out a man's tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you're only telling the world that you fear what he might say.'

"I believe CCDH's campaign was intended to silence those of us who they believed were most effective at warning the public about the true dangers of the mRNA vaccine rollout and how this mass experiment violated the medical ethics principle of informed consent."

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