Opinion| Syndicated Via National File| Tom Pappert| Facebook’s top fact checker spoke at one of the group’s events.
President Donald Trump’s Department of State, under Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, continues operating an Obama-era program, known as TechCamp, designed to fight “misinformation and propaganda” as well as “fake news” across the globe.
Since TechCamp was founded under President Barack Obama’s State Department during the tenure of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the opaque group has led dozens of events across the planet, and since the election of President Trump a disproportionate number of the events focus on fighting “fake news.”
While TechCamp’s purpose was vague at its inception, it was allegedly first used to foment dissent and eventually civil war in Ukraine in 2013.
It should be noted that prior to this, the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act legalized the use of propaganda on American citizens, according to Foreign Policy.
Following this allegation, the organization seemed to keep a relatively low profile until 2017.
However, in 2015 TechCamp taught Latvian journalists how to “counter misinformation and propaganda” at one of its events.
— US Embassy Riga (@USEmbassyRiga) May 19, 2015
TechCamp seemed to increase its activity after President Obama infamously signed the National Defense Authorization Act on December 24, 2016, which included the Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act of 2016.
According to ZeroHedge, this allowed President Obama’s federal government to potentially form its own “Ministry of Truth.”
The CDPA offered a massive $160 million for the purpose of fighting what would later become known as” fake news” in the United States and globally.
While it is unclear where this funding was dispersed, the timeline appears to coincide with TechCamp beginning its fight against “fake news” globally.
In short, as former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took the reigns of the State Department, the group was allowed to flourish.
During February of 2017, only a month after President Trump’s inauguration and after the media had already blamed “fake news” and Russia for the 2016 election results, the group began holding events in Europe with “fake news” as a major focus.
In its February, 2017 event in Warsaw, Poland, TechCamp featured a representative from StopFake, an organization that claims to “struggle against fake information about events in Ukraine.”
At this event, the Obama-appointed Ambassador Bruce Wharton, Acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, delivered remarks.
Later in September of 2017, TechCamp would hold another event in Warsaw, Poland, this time featuring the co-founder of Facebook fact checker Lead Stories, Maarten Schenk, as a “trainer” for the event.
TechCamp would hold another event, aimed at battling “fake news,” in December of 2017, this time in Moldova.
In October of 2017, TechCamp published a blog post suggesting “trainers,” like Schenk, may find themselves working for the State Department, a U.S. Embassy, or for a major corporation as a result of their time spent with TechCamp.
TechCamp also routinely boasts about the accomplishments of its attendees and “trainers.”
As the Italian elections approached in 2018, the group published a blog post about a bias and fake news detecting website, funded by the State Department, created TechCamp attendees:
How might we use machine learning to identify articles that are true or not? That question inspired TechCamp Reconnect Warsaw attendees Douglas Arellanes of Sourcefabric and Michelangelo ‘Ugo’ Barbara of Agi News Agency to create Bias Tracker, an open source tool that uses automated sentiment analysis to detect bias in online media. With seed funding from the TechCamp program, Douglas and Ugo, in collaboration with the University of Urbino, recently launched a prototype for the Bias Tracker and tested it in the run-up to Italy’s March 2018 general election.
While it cannot be ascertained without a Freedom of Information Act request whether TechCamp received money from the CDPA, the Act’s $160 million was set to expire at the end of 2018.
Before this could happen, Marie Royce, the wife of former Republican Rep. Ed Royce (D-CA), was appointed to the position of Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at State Department, effectively becoming the Executive Director of the ECA.
It should be noted that NewsWeek reported that Royce gained her role with the help of Republican fundraiser and former Republican National Committee head Elliott Broidy, who allegedly profited off the destabilization of Ukraine and allegedly sold influence over and access to President Trump following his election.
Also in 2018, President Trump removed Tillerson from his position, and replaced him with House Representative-turned CIA Director-turned Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Royce was photographed with Pompeo as he assumed his role of Secretary of State.
Welcome to the @StateDept Secretary Pompeo and Susan. As you stated, looking forward to many more steps that we’ll take together to achieve President Trump's and America's foreign policy goals. pic.twitter.com/sFaL3VQXZ9
— Marie Royce (@ECA_AS) May 1, 2018
The organization continued to run, perhaps on existing funding, through the early months of 2019, going as far as to boast about teaching attendees how to use tools designed to detect “fake news” at its events.
Then, in May of 2019, the organization was moved within the State Department to fall under the auspices of the ECA, effectively making Royce the head of TechCamp.
In December of 2019, Royce was photographed presenting a certificate to the individuals behind TechCamp.
We are proud to be a part of the awesome @ECAatState team! Thank you @ECA_AS for supporting #TechCamps and welcoming us into the Bureau! We are so excited for our future work as we continue implementing TechCamps around the world! #exchangeourworld https://t.co/44xOnvC0Fo
— TechCamp (@TechCampGlobal) December 4, 2019
It is unclear why the Trump administration’s State Department, under Tillerson or Pompeo, would continue an Obama-era program that may be at odds with the administration’s agenda and supporters.
As reported by The Gateway Pundit, conservative news outlets have lost 1.5 billion page views on Facebook since President Trump’s election:
Floyd Brown is a conservative author, speaker and media commentator. In 2008 Floyd launched Western Journal which quickly became one of the top conservative websites in America. By 2016 Floyd’s organization of Western Journal and other conservative websites under his umbrella had more than a billion page views. Since 2016 Floyd’s organization lost 75% of its Facebook traffic.
Likewise, we spoke with Jared Vallorani from Klicked Media. Jared traveled to Washington DC with The Gateway Pundit and website owners at 100%FedUp in June to discuss Facebook targeting against conservative publishers with Republican lawmakers. Jared told The Gateway Pundit his organization Klicked Media, which hosts over 60 conservative websites, lost 400 million page views from Facebook in the last six months if you compare the traffic to a year ago. Jared said, “We lost 70% to 80% of our traffic if you compare January to May 2017 vs Jan to May 2018.”
If you combine the total number of pageviews lost by just these two conservative online publishers you are looking at a loss of over 1.5 billion pageviews from Facebook in one year.
Meanwhile, TechCamp allows the man who likely helped orchestrate this loss, Schenk, to speak at its events in an official capacity as a “trainer.”