If you ask questions about the voting machines in the 2020 election, you will be kicked off YouTube. Interview a covid vaccine skeptic on a podcast for Spotify, and you could lose your platform. Post about it on Facebook, and you could lose your account.
These aren’t simply independent bodies making their own decisions on who they want to allow on their private platforms. Behind all of them are federal agencies with links to former United States President Barack Obama. And to help them track down the “dangerous” disinformation, they use several groups of outside “experts.” One group with global influence that you’ve never heard of is the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (isd).
The think tank describes itself as an “independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to safeguarding human rights and reversing the rising tide of polarization, extremism and disinformation worldwide.” But the institute’s worldwide mission is strongly influenced by a foreign government: Germany.
In 2015, the institute began working with the Obama administration. It forged ties with Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Spotify, Twitter and YouTube, as well as the European Union, the Global Counter Terrorism Forum, the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, New Zealand’s Christchurch Call and the Global Internet Forum to Counter-Terrorism.
Government and media organizations no longer do their own fact-checking—they outsource that responsibility to the isd. This organization joined Spotify’s Safety Advisory Council in 2022 after the platform was criticized for not censoring Joe Rogan’s December 2021 interview with covid-19 vaccine critic Dr. Robert Malone. A Jan. 17, 2018, Senate Commerce Committee hearing singled it out from among 50 nongovernmental organizations that advise Facebook on censorship. On the local level, its Strong Cities Network has trained thousands of police officers, teachers and youth workers around the world to “mitigate hate, polarization and disinformation.”
“The isd has been accused of suppressing conservative views online by erroneously labeling mainstream views as misinformation,” wrote Capital Research Center, a think tank that researches how other think tanks influence public life. The Daily Caller wrote that isd “frequently classifies typical conservative discourse and journalism as hate and/or disinformation and has received funding from the U.S. government” (Feb. 14, 2023).
“Please keep an eye on this organization,” wrote investigative journalist Michael Shellenberger, who helped expose censorship on Twitter. “Follow them. They are working to censor [Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, Bjorn Lomborg, Alex Epstein] and me. They are spreading lies about us to news media and social media platforms around the world. They are creepy and dangerous.”
Who exactly is this influence group? Founded in 2006, the isd began as an extension of the Club of Three, a think tank that set up contacts between French, German and British business, political, media and academic leaders. George Weidenfeld, an Austrian Jew, founded both. Though he fled Austria when the Nazis took power, and became a British citizen, the Guardian wrote in his obituary that he “never lost his deep affection for Austria and created exceptionally strong links with Germany.” The German media loved him, and he formed close ties with chancellors Helmut Kohl and Angela Merkel.
In November 2020—at the same time as the U.S. presidential election—the institute founded its Digital Policy Lab. This project was funded by the German government for the purpose of “safeguarding democracy.”
When people began questioning the 2020 election, the isd tried to shut them down. It published a three-part series to explain that “extremist mobilization precipitated a violent assault on the heart of American democracy on Jan. 6, 2021.” Two years later, it published another series marking the anniversary of the January 6 “insurrection” that focused on “accountability for big tech, extremists’ digital footprints, and the landscape of election denialism going forward.” This powerful foreign-based censorship machine isn’t hiding its political bias against American conservatives, and it is helping to define what is portrayed to you as true or false, according to its agenda.
Sitting on the isd board of directors since 2013 is one man that the Trumpet has watched closely since 2009: Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg.
The former German economics minister and defense minister, founder of an investment and advisory firm, and most recently a podcast host, isn’t hiding his own bias against American conservatives, especially Donald Trump. On LinkedIn, Guttenberg shared an isd post attacking conservatives who question the integrity of the U.S. election system as “conspiracy theorists.” Guttenberg commented: “Not a surprise, but still highly disturbing. Worthwhile following isd’s work.”
Guttenberg often addresses the need of regulating speech online in his podcast series with left-wing German politician Gregor Gysi. He has also criticized Americans who don’t believe in climate change and speaks in favor of the rights of transsexuals.
Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry exposed many of Germany’s efforts to regulate what is said online, far beyond its borders, in his July 2019 article “Germany Is Taking Control of the Internet.” Guttenberg sees these efforts as a model for more laws on data-sharing and regulating artificial intelligence. Mr. Flurry questioned whether Guttenberg is behind some of these regulations and concluded: “Soon we are certain to see whether Guttenberg is already working behind the scenes against America.”
Guttenberg’s involvement with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, his criticism of Donald Trump and his supporters, and his praise for strong EU regulations are just a few indicators that he wields some level of power over what you can find out and how you view it.