Exclusive: Labour right linked to campaign to shut down The Canary

Keir Starmer; Rachel Riley
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On 2 August 2019, an anonymous internet campaign named Stop Funding Fake News (SFFN) celebrated its apparent success in downsizing The Canary. For six months, SFFN had been trying to demonetise The Canary by lobbying companies to remove advertisements from its website.

The Canary can now reveal that Morgan McSweeney, Keir Starmer’s chief of staff, launched the organisation that now runs SFFN.

SFFN CEO Imran Ahmed has also worked closely with a number of Labour figures previously involved in the campaign to remove Jeremy Corbyn as party leader.

Rachel Riley, a prominent supporter of SFFN, is listed as a patron of the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), an organisation closely linked to SSFN.

Center for Countering Digital Hate

SFFN claims that it has been “a project of the Center For Countering Digital Hate” since 4 May 2020. The relationship between the two organisations, however, appears to date back far longer. And crucially, CCDH is linked to a number of figures on the Labour right.

CCDH is a not-for-profit NGO which was initially registered on Companies House as Brixton Endeavours Limited. At the time of incorporation, 19 October 2018, the organisation’s only director was Morgan McSweeney – Labour leader Keir Starmer’s chief of staff. McSweeney was also the campaign manager for Liz Kendall’s leadership bid.

Brixton Endeavours Limited was officially renamed the Center for Countering Digital Hate on 30 August 2019, and McSweeney did not resign his directorship until 6 April 2020. The resignation was listed on Companies House on 4 May 2020, the day CCDH and SFFN’s relationship was formally acknowledged.

Read on...

Although CCDH was first named on Companies House in August 2019, it has been in unofficial operation since December 2017.

Imran Ahmed

Imran Ahmed, according to his Twitter profile, is the “founding CEO of CCDH & SFFN” – thus suggesting his involvement in SFFN since it was first launched in early 2019.

Speaking with former Labour leader Ed Miliband, Ahmed also admitted that “Stop Funding Fake News… was one of our earlier projects”, adding that “we” (SFFN) shut down Aaron Banks’ site Westmonster “early on” – in August 2019.

SFFN and CCDH’s websites were also registered on the same server, on 28 January 2019 and 24 April 2019, respectively.

Ahmed, as CEO of an organisation whose director was McSweeney, thus appears to have been operating SFFN long before both organisations have been willing to openly admit.

Moreover, Ahmed is not only linked to McSweeney. He is connected to a number of Labour figures previously involved in the campaign to remove Jeremy Corbyn as Labour party leader.

Ahmed has worked as special advisor to Hilary Benn, reported to have encouraged a vote of “no confidence” against Corbyn in 2016, and as head of communications for Angela Eagle, who launched a leadership challenge the same year. Both Benn and Eagle “consistently voted” for the Iraq War – a criminal product of epic disinformation, propelled by many of the UK’s main media organisations.

Ahmed now also sits on the steering committee of the UK government’s Commission for Countering Extremism, where he advises on “conspiracist “news” sites”.

Blue Labour

CCDH also shares its address with “Blue Labour” campaign group Labour Together, formerly directed by McSweeney, and now co-directed by Labour shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy.

While posing as a neutral body concerned with “the rapid rise in Fake News”, operated by people who are supposedly “pro-truth, pro-balance and pro-responsible news”, SFFN in fact appears to be a highly politicised pressure group, and part of the wider onslaught against the British left.

A statistical analysis of SFFN’s lobbying efforts supports this assessment. Between its founding and the 2019 general election, SFFN targeted The Canary – which the campaign acknowledged was its largest target – more than any other website, with 176 individual posts on Twitter. The operation has been scaled down since the election, with 42 individual posts targeting The Canary in a greater amount of time.

Who’s funding Stop Funding Fake news?

During its effort to demonetise The Canary, SFFN did not publish its own sources of funding. In 2019, when the campaign was looking to “hire two full-time staff” to “finish the job” on The Canary and other sites, it raised a mere £2,486 of its crowdfunding target of £10,000.

Based on two deleted job postings, however, the organisation is now in receipt of considerable sums of money.

In August 2020, CCDH called for prospective workers to join its “rapidly expanding team”. The first job, “Head of Campaigns and Communications” to support “Stop Funding Fake News”, was salaried at between £30,000 and £35,000. The second job, named as “Research supporting our Stop Funding Fake News project”, offered the same amount.

Today, CCDH lists Countdown figure Rachel Riley as its only patron, adding that it receives additional funds from “philanthropic trusts and members of the public”.

It is not known whether Riley has also funded SFFN since 2019, at which time she celebrated The Canary being “on its last legs” due to SFFN lobbying. Riley did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.

SFFN and CCDH’s opaque funding raises an elementary concern. If an organisation cannot reveal its sources of income, it cannot be trusted to act with independence or integrity.

SFFN would argue that, while websites that publish fake news have a right to free speech, they don’t have a right to make money from it. But on what authority can this group decide what is and is not ‘fake news’?

Unlike the content of SFFN’s Twitter threads, The Canary is monitored by an independent press regulator. We invite our readers to request a correction should they find inaccurate information. When The Canary makes mistakes, a correction is not buried in the depths of the website, but shared widely. Indeed, these standards are far higher than those of the corporate media.

Yet making this point is perhaps too charitable to SFFN. Rather than being a real attempt at countering misinformation, the campaign seems to represent what journalist Glenn Greenwald would call “hall-monitor tattletale whining masquerading as journalism: petulantly complaining that tech platforms are permitting speech that, in their view, ought instead be silenced”.

They’ll come for us next

Attacks on The Canary have continued over recent weeks, with editor-at-large Kerry-Anne Mendoza’s Twitter account being suspended following “a series of coordinated and vexatious complaints”.

In a scathing article published in Jacobin Magazine about CCDH, journalist Branko Marcetic warned: “They’ll Come For Us [the left] Next”.

It seems they already have.

The Canary contacted Imran Ahmed, CCDH, SFFN, and Rachel Riley for comment. None have responded at the time of publication. Any response will be added to the article.

Featured image via screengrab/Loraine and screengrab/Guardian

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  • Show Comments
    1. I regret the fact that the Labour party is controlled by our enemies. They have no place in a socialist party, the game is complete, neoliberalism and racist have won the day. A new party will have to emerge but will be hounded by the msm, the powerful rich establishment, that goes without saying. Unless full use of alternative media to get the message out to young voters who JC empowered, it will fail. “Tis what they want”, no alternative to greed. Sad for the many.

    2. Targeting left-leaning publications would definitely point to a political agenda, something specifically prohibited by the Charities Commission by which the group(s) are regulated. Someone should complain to the commission in order that they investigate this..

    3. There is a lot of money floating around these far-right groups. I wonder what happened to the £1m promised to LFI and JLM by the Israeli Embassy? I’d be amazed if much more hasn’t found its way to various anti-Left groups over the past few years.

    4. Exclusive: Labour right linked to campaign to shut down The Canary.
      Labour could have and should have voted No to the new L-Down
      but did not WHY???
      (Because Mr Starmer was protecting Boris ASS that is why)
      Nice to see Mr Starmer showing his true colours in this article
      He is a Tory party light, members of Labour – Labour voters
      That is why he did not vote to keep us out of new Harder L-Down
      rule he was looking after Boris ASS and has been doing since
      day of him being in Offices (Labour leader)
      I have for years said he was a Tory light member while
      Mr Corbyn was in charge I told him to remove Starmer from the party
      but he failed to listen. so, Mr Corbyn paid the price of not listening to
      my words back then.
      Now the rest of Labour party will go down the toilet under Mr Starmer rule.
      In addition, at local level Cllr seat election in May 2021 will loss voters
      And at any G.E. held now will lose voters unless a new Labour leader
      is picked fast before next year 2020’ time frame.
      Labour is no longer a working man party has it is a TORY LIGHT RUN
      and under Mr Starmer will never hold power in Govt again voters.
      Labour party member do remember Jan 2021 Labour will be need
      to keep worker right in place but under Mr Starmer we could lose
      more of our right plus our freedom to hold Govt to account.

      1. Well said Roy. I have been saying the same things but very sadly few are listening.

        Britain needs an actual Socialist Party, not this ‘establishment’ backed Queer Starmer led Tory Lite bunch of traitors.

        Queer Starmer, he’s not one thing or the other. He’s a bent as a corkscrew.

    5. I was taking the dog for a walk this morning and something sprang to mind which was, if the Canary needs to be shut down because of fake news ? What the F*CK are the Sun, the Mail, the Express and all the other comics putting out ? Here’s one for you which I absolutely guarantee is FAKE NEWS, Jeremy Corbyn is not only a Czech spy, Putins puppet and a terrorist sympathiser he is also a racist Anti Semantic. If any news or news commentator site/company needs to be shut down i would suggest we start with the ones that hacked into a dead child’s phone and gave her parents false hope, the ones that said GOTCHA when our military murdered over 300 Argentinian sailors whose ship was sailing AWAY from the UK forces and the conflict area.

    6. Those resigning their Labour membership should think again. This does not hurt the PLP or Starmer. It is undoubtedly Starmer`s aim to reduce membership which is why he is wooing private donors. Much better to stay a member and do to Starmer and co what they did to Jeremy.
      Is Rachel Riley the “countdown” genius who tried to claim that Jeremy was racist at the same time showing a photo of him being arrested for demonstrating against racism. I have heard she can count but she cannot think.

    7. Do you believe that your average working class man or women gives a toss about the Canary or is even aware of its existence. Its a pious middle class rag for pious middle class people. Grow up for God’s sake.

      1. And that’s exactly what I was talking about. Only a far-right nutjob would come away with something as ugly, toxic and pointless as that. Just proved my point there.

        And who even says “pious”? Not any working class people I know, that’s for damn sure. Gave yourself away there, didn’t you fool?

        1. Johnny dear chap how nice of you to find the time out of your busy Integrity initiative schedule to drop by and bestow us with your sublime interlect. Or to put it another way you talk B*LLOCKS I ain’t no trendy leftie nor am I an average working class man, but what I am is a socialist and proud of it, I worked for 40 years doing everything from cleaner and dustman to labourer and semi skilled engineer so I’m not your average anything and neither are the people that have been going to work every day during this pandemic. The sad situation we find ourselves in has proved one thing and that is who really are the key workers that we really need, is it traders on the stock market ? Is it CEO’s of big clothing companies? Is it tv stars? Or is it every single hospital worker every single dustman cleaner shelf stacker click and collect worker bus drivers the ordinary working class that are anything and everything except average? If you were paid according to the value you bring to society my Daughter who works for a supermarket stacking shelves would be a millionaire and people like sir Phillip green and his ilk would be on benefits. Finally just a question Johnny my man, are you also diannesrightshoe or is she really as toxic as you ?? Give my regards to her anyway.

    8. What needs to be noted here is the desperation: the Canary is excellent but small. Hardly anyone reads it. Tens of millions read The Sun, The Mail, The Express, The MIrror…Why the panic over such a small site? Because their position rests upon lies and is therefore every weak. Their need to shut down any dissent is the measure of their radical dishonesty. Were they confident of the justice and honesty of their case, they wouldn’t need to listen for every whisper which opposes them. Thought experiment: imagine we had five national dailies proposing workplace democracy and democratic egalitarianism; a left-wing government with a majority of 80; broadcast media which tilted heavily in our direction ( interviewing JVL frequently but giving no time to the BoD for example); millions in funding. How would we respond to tiny right-wing news websites? Well, for a start we’d say we support freedom of speech and secondly we’d laugh all the way to the next election. Progressive social movements always begin with small minorities. The interesting question is why is now the juncture at which Labour heads for totalitarianism. The answer is that climate change, BLM, the rise of African nations, the spread of democracy in Latin America, the unsustainable Israeli oppression, the possible break-up of the UK and a potential united Ireland, these and more, bring peril to the existing order. In spite of their electoral success, the right are facing a demographic and changing-values tidal wave. Hence their hysterical response to even the most peripheral criticism. For us, this is a time of great opportunity. The climate crisis in and of itself will make people far more receptive to radical ideas. 170 years of gross exploitation of the planet are coming to an end and with them, the Right fears, perhaps also the exploitation of the many by the few.

    9. So good to see John McEvoy uncovering what’s under English noses in the way he had done with foreign countries. England needs this reporting to understand what on earth is happening to the body politic. As in a Conspirator advising the Government on Conspiracys; Not for Profit funding which refuses to list its sources publically.
      This group doing character assassination on the innocent using lies against those seeking a new response to an ever radically changing world. England is no longer an Open Society.
      Its not Starmer alone, its a crowd movement seeking to assassinate the character of these broadminded people. To recreate the old world again in which people fled from persecution centuries ago, and yet this is now listened intently by the Government for their advisory role in determination of policy.
      Trying to stifle the Free Speech of the Canary using financial means reeks of the American Stink Technique in bullying a German mayor with personal financial sanctions for supporting the Russian gas Pipeline to Germany.
      Its so similair a technique.
      At some deep military level they all connect up, and am hoping John McEvoy keeps broadening the investigation of this assault upon our Open Society who desires a voice for a different vision unlike the Model Of Order so many millions have died from in the past all in vain.

    10. Anyone who is concerned about and agrees with censoring ‘fake’ news should temper their diet of propaganda outlets. There should be a safety warning “Reading the Guardian can damage your health… and those you care for”

    11. Not surprising at all – after continuously seeking various ways to backstab the democratically elected Labour leader, these ‘labour’ figures are using underhanded tactics to silence anyone who dares speak up and expose them. It is enough to state the obvious – Labour has a new leader who is a ‘sir’. Shame for all those who have fallen for individual freedoms and workers’ rights. Another sad day for ‘democracy’ in this country!

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