The Atlantic Council, an independent policy think tank that focuses on international affairs and is notorious for selling influence to foreign countries, has a sister organization dedicated to promoting “objective truth as a foundation of government” by identifying disinformation and “building digital resilience” to teach people how to expose “attempts to pollute the information space.” The Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) counts on a team of “digital sherlocks”; a group of 32 researchers, analysts and editors who prepare reports on various news narratives, which the Western media establishment dislikes, such as the liberation of Aleppo, Syria, relying on sources like the White Helmets who have been thoroughly exposed by MintPress contributor, Vanessa Beeley.
The DFRLab, which has attacked MintPress and Beeley in its publications as “anti-Israeli, anti-Saudi, and anti-Western,” has turned its propagandistic sights to Kenosha, Wisconsin, where 29-year old, Jacob Blake, was shot seven times in the back by police while his children watched sparking mass civil unrest, which resulted in the death of two people and another wounded at the hands of a 17-year old who, yesterday, was charged of first degree murder by Wisconsin state prosecutors.
The Atlantic Council’s “fake news” researchers revealed in a Medium post that several armed militia groups in the vicinity of Kenosha, which is only 40 miles from Milwaukee, had coordinated on multiple social media platforms to “defend” their city from the violent protests, which had erupted over news of the police shooting. According to the DFRLab, Facebook, which has partnered with the Atlantic Council before, and Reddit were the platforms of choice for self-described militiamen to rile up sympathizers and call on them to “take up arms”, posting a number of event RSVPs on their social media pages with titles like “Armed Citizens to Protect our Lives and Property” and “STAND UP KENOSHA!!!! TONIGHT WE COME TOGETHER.”
The digital sherlocks’ post contained detailed timestamps of the evolution of these alleged militias organizing over the Internet up to 13 hours before the fatal incident involving Kyle Rittenhouse; the teen charged for the killing of two men during the riots. They identify “Kenosha Guard” as the leader of the online call to arms, who was seemingly the most active in trying to gather support together and went as far as to write and publish a letter addressed directly to the Kenosha chief of police, Daniel Miskinis, where he asks that he “NOT have [his] officers tell us to go home under threat of arrest as you have done in the past.”
The detail of the DFRLab’s exposition of the alleged militia members’ activity on Facebook and Reddit is even more striking because practically all of the referenced posts by Kenosha Guard and others were deleted pretty quickly; most staying up for barley a few hours. Unless they had been monitoring the armed militia groups on social media beforehand, it is unclear how DFRLab was able to piece together such a robust timeline of events.
More than likely, DFRLabs relied on Facebook’s own monitoring and social media surveillance tool called CrowdTangle (purchased in 2016), which is cited in the Medium post as their source for impressions and interaction data about an InfoWars post on the social media platform DFRLab researchers claim “amplified the call to arms, potentially encouraging additional people with weapons to attend the event.”
The “real story”
The InfoWars article, which DFRLabs claims could have incited more violence, was one of the first media outlets to cover the armed groups organizing to stop “looters and rioters.” The piece calls them “brave locals” for coming out to protect private property and filling the gaps left by an “outnumbered” police department.
Local news station, KOB4, reported that several armed vigilantes and “militia members” were looking to be deputized by Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth, who declined any such requests and told reporters that doing so would create “a liability to me and the county.” Perhaps, it was just easier to look away and allow “Kenosha Guard” and like-minded cohorts to patrol the streets in an unofficial capacity and dispense with formalities that could come back to bite the Sheriff in the next election.
Black Kenosha resident Ray Roberts, told KOB4 that he could see men from “rural areas [getting] in big trucks loaded up with guns and flags and got into town,” adding that despite violating curfew, police were “not stopping them.” Robert’s first-hand account betrays the narrative that the DFRLab and others are trying to shape in order to justify censorship and deplatforming, which is actually just another manifestation of America’s structural racism and decades of economic disenfranchisement coming home to roost.
Feature photo | In this Aug. 26, 2020 file photo, police stop a car near where protesters gather for a fourth night to demonstrate against the police violence in Kenosha, Wis. David Goldman | AP
Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.