Funding and motivation of ‘Brickgate’ communication director who moved on to try to put left sites out of action and to ‘counter hate’ examined in new article in US Jewish daily magazine
A new article in a US Jewish news magazine has shed light on the funding and links of right-wing Labour MP Angela Eagle’s former communications director who went on to found a ‘shady’ group to attack the funding of left-wing news sites – and another group to supposedly counter ‘online hate’.
Imran ‘Imi’ Ahmed worked for Eagle at the time of the notorious homophobia smears against local Labour members over comments supposedly made to Eagle during a meeting she did not attend – and the infamous ‘Brickgate’ scam and has been accused by some of being the architect of the smear that was designed to paint supporters of Jeremy Corbyn as violent and dangerous. The right’s story at the time was that vengeful left-wingers threw a brick through the office window of Wallasey MP Angela Eagle.
And Ahmed was directly responsible, according to leaked messages between two senior right-wing Labour HQ staff, for wanting Wallasey constituency party suspended long after it was well known that there was no substance to the accusations, with one telling the other:
I have every sympathy for the fact that Angela is still in a difficult situation as they are properly organised in her constituency – my worry is that based on track record, no matter how much time we give Angela (in practice Imran) to “organise”, so little work will go into it that we’ll end up getting asked to extend it further and further.
At the moment, Imran [an Eagle staffer at the time] wants the suspension to remain in place until at least November, but I would be really worried about turning up to Disputes in October and having to report that Wallasey was still suspended because they haven’t held an AGM yet.
Ahmed went on to (eventually) admit that he was behind the shadowy and unaccountable right-wing group ‘Stop Funding Fake News’ (SFFN), supposedly run by anonymous grassroots activists, that tried to put left-wing news sites out of business by pressuring them – with help from the notorious Rachel Riley – through unsubstantiated claims of fake news and hate speech, to withdraw advertising from left-wing sites that were funded by advertising revenues, including the Canary. Skwawkbox would no doubt have been heavily targeted if it had ever carried advertising, but this site does not.
Ahmed also founded the so-called ‘Centre for Countering Digital Hate’ (CCDH), with whom Riley also worked – but now US Jewish magazine Tablet has published an analysis of the funding and motivations of Ahmed’s pressure groups, which has become highly influential in the US despite ‘dark money’ funding and a lack of track record.
Tablet author Paul Thacker:
- relates allegations that Ahmed works for, or is strongly connected to, UK intelligence services – and that Ahmed did not respond to the magazine’s request for comment on the allegations
- notes that CCDH has been quoted, by US authorities seeking to censor opponents, as an authority on supposed hate speech despite its reports and claims having no substance or evidence, and has strong influence with British politicians
- notes that Morgan McSweeney, at one time Keir Starmer’s chief of staff, was a director of the company, and Tory tech and digital minister Damian Collins subsequently became an officer
- points out that CCDH is being sued by Elon Musk’s Twitter/X for defamatory comments made by CCDH accusing Twitter of fostering hate speech and protecting those spreading it
- notes that Twitter has accused CCDH of illegal access to and use of data belonging to Twitter and its contractor Brandwatch and publishing a report based on misinterpretation of data to which CCDH should have had no access – and of criminal acts in the pursuit of this data
- calculates that CCDH took almost US$ 1.5m in its first year of US operations – of which $1.1 million came from a single, anonymous donor
- notes that CCDH chair Simon Clark was also a senior fellow at the so-called Center for American Progress, a think-tank closely linked to the Biden administration – and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s ‘Digital Forensics Lab’, an organisation reportedly funded by US government agencies and defence contractors; the Atlantic Council has had seven former CIA directors on its directorial and advisory boards
- quotes Mike Benz, a former US State Department official who now runs a free speech watchdog: “There’s nothing surprising about this. This is not the first rodeo of British and U.S. intelligence services creating a cutout for the purpose of influencing the online news economy, to rig public debate in favor of political speech that supports agency agendas.”
- believes that “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”
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.
Ahmed’s rise has been impressive, but ultimately he has been a servant to the power of political parties who deployed him and the CCDH to weaponize the charge of hate speech and misinformation against their enemies.
UK legislation pushed by CCDH officer and Tory front-bencher Damian Collins is now passing through Parliament under the guise of protecting against ‘online harms’ that many analysts conclude is a thinly-veiled ploy to censor legitimate news sources that the UK Establishment considers inconvenient.
Read Paul Thacker’s analysis in full here.
IMPORTANT: Skwawkbox was immune to SFFN’s attacks because it does not carry advertising and instead is funded entirely by the voluntary donations of readers.
But this means that your support is essential for this site to operate. If you are able to do so without hardship, please click here to arrange a one-off or modest monthly donation via PayPal or here to set up a monthly donation via GoCardless (SKWAWKBOX will contact you to confirm the GoCardless amount). Thanks for your solidarity so SKWAWKBOX can keep doing its job.