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Institute for Strategic Dialogue

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An anti-conspiracy theories ‘think tank’ was the London-based ‘think and do tank’ (started in 2006) called the INSTITUTE FOR STRATEGIC DIALOGUE (ISD), which pioneered research into violent extremism and inter-communal conflict. ISD was at the forefront of forging real-world, evidence-based responses to the challenges of integration, extremism and terrorism.

The ISD had partnerships with major public and private sector organisations, e.g. GOOGLE; TWITTER; MICROSOFT; national governments; the UN Development Program; CHATHAM HOUSE (RIIA); George Soros’ OSF; BROOKINGS INSTITUTE; LSE; BRITISH COUNCIL; CARNEGIE CORPORATION.

ISD’s founder and president was a prominent Jewish Zionist: GEORGE WEIDENFELD (Baron Weidenfeld), who had served in the inaugural Israeli government and married into the MARKS AND SPENCER retail clan when he married a daughter of another prominent Jewish Zionist: ISRAEL SIEFF. Weidenfeld worked for the BBC during WWII, where he was tasked with making contact with governments in exile, befriending not just the French leader General de Gaulle but other world leaders and future authors, such as President Tito of Yugoslavia.

An ISD researcher, JULIA EBNER, wrote an anti-Conspiracy theory article in “The Guardian” newspaper in 2019: “Stop the online conspiracy theorists before they break democracy”. She wrote that an ISD report showed that European ‘Far Right’ conspiracy theorists ran sophisticated campaigns throughout European politics. That ISD report (“The Battle for Bavaria”) was supported by George Soros’ OSF.

The ISD chairman in 2019 was another Jewish Zionist: MICHAEL LEWIS, whose family supported pro-Israel organisations, e.g. the UNITED JEWISH ISRAEL APPEAL (Michael Lewis a director); BICOM (Michael Lewis was a director and sponsor). Lewis’ father STANLEY LEWIS controlled the Israeli travel company PALTOURS, which was originally a subsidiary of the Jewish Colonial Trust (the latter originally the first ever Zionist Bank). Michael Lewis co-chaired the WEIDENFELD SCHOLARSHIPS & LEADERSHIP PROGRAMME.

One of the ISD’s programmes was the STRONG CITIES NETWORK, launched at the United Nations in 2015. The Strong Cities Network (SCN) was the first ever global network of mayors, municipal-level policy makers and practitioners united in building social cohesion and community resilience to counter violent extremism in all its forms.

GOOGLE Innovation Fund – In 2017 and ISD partnered to deliver a £1m innovation fund to counter hate and extremism in the UK. The fund aimed to support innovative projects on and offline that seek to disrupt, undermine, counter or provide positive alternatives to hate and extremism.

The ISD Board in 2019 included BARON CHARLES GUTHRIE, a former top British military officer; OBE; GCB; GCVO; Knight of Malta; director at NM Rothschild & Sons; ex-SAS commander; shareholder at the CIA-backed Silicon Valley company PALANTIR TECHNOLOGIES (co-founders included the PAYPAL co-founder PETER THIEL).

The ISD International Advisory Board in 2019 included:-

1) RICHARD BARRETT (CMG, OBE) – a former MI5 and MI6 officer; British diplomat involved in countering violent extremism. Barrett has been a recognised global expert on terrorism who frequently appeared as a panellist in related conferences and whose commentary was regularly featured in the press.

Barrett was a founding member of the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF), which was established in 2005 to promote the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy adopted by the General Assembly in 2006. He chaired the CTITF Working Group on Terrorist use of the Internet and the CTITF Working Group on Dialogue Understanding and Countering the Appeal of Terrorism.

Barrett was designated as one of the Global Experts of the UN ALLIANCE OF CIVILISATIONS, an initiative that seeks to galvanize international action against extremism through the forging of international, intercultural and interreligious dialogue and cooperation. The Alliance places a particular emphasis on defusing tensions between the Western and Islamic worlds.

Barrett served as Director of Global Counter Terrorism Operations for the British MI6 (SIS) both before and after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States.

2) BARON ADAIR TURNER – ex-Chairman of the British quasi-governmental FSA (Financial Services Authority). He is a former chairman of the UK Committee on Climate Change, as well as a former Director-General of the CBI (Confederation of British Industry). Turner joined George Soros’ economic think tank INET (Institute for New Economic Thinking) as a senior research fellow. From that, he wrote a book “Between Debt and the Devil: Money, Credit, and Fixing Global Finance”.

INET got donations from other philanthropists and financiers, including Paul Volcker; David Rockefeller; the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation; the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Turner wrote opinion columns for the Soros backed international media organisation PROJECT SYNDICATE, which received grants from Soros’ Open Society Foundation and from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Turner was the ISD’s chair of its’ policy board.

3) JONATHAN POWELL – the former senior adviser to British PM TONY BLAIR, taking the role of
The Downing Street Chief of Staff, who was the most senior political appointee in the Office of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, acting as a senior aide to the Prime Minister; a powerful, non-ministerial position within Her Majesty’s Government.

4) TIMOTHY GARTON ASH – a Historian and article writer for centre left publications (“Prospect”; “The Guardian”). Member of the European CFR, a pro-Europe think tank funded by Soros’ OSF.

The aforementioned ISD Senior Research Fellow, JULIA EBNER, continued her negative stance towards conspiracy theories in her 2020 book “Going Dark”, an exploration of ‘extremists’ (Far Right and Islamist). For her research she went undercover, employing 5 different identities. Is she a professional spy? Is the ISD just a front for British Intelligence? Ebner denied such an allegation in an interview with “Time” magazine: “I’m not a professional MI5 agent, I did acting in high school but going undercover didn’t come naturally to me.” (interview by Madeline Roach, February 18, 2020). In an interview with “The Guardian” she recounted a time when her cover came close to being exposed at a meeting with MARTIN SELLNER, the head of an Austrian Far Right group. Apparently, Sellner didn’t recognise her despite both of them appearing in a BBC “Newsnight” report. (“Guardian” interview by FIONA STURGES, Feb 14 2020). Perhaps Sellner was an undercover agent himself.

In her book, Ebner suggested various techniques for defeating the extremists, including “Trolling the trolls”, though she acknowledged that it isn’t an ideal tactic. She also advocated – in the above “Time” interview” – the regulation of the tech companies: “Firstly, we need a global legal framework that forces all the tech companies — not just the big ones but also the fringe networks, like 8chan and 4chan — to remove content that could inspire terrorism.”

Ebner was interviewed by the BBC news presenter EMILY MAITLIS on the BBC’s flagship political/current affairs programme “Newsnight”.

After leaving the LSE (where she studied), Ebner joined the London-based counterextremist think tank, QUILLIAM, whose co-founders included a former senior advisor to Tony Blair’s Institute for Global Change – ED HUSAIN, who was a former CFR senior fellow.

Another ISD employee, CHLOE COLLIVER, was interviewed for a primetime BBC documentary in 2021 on alleged vaccine disinformation during the Covid pandemic: “Vaccines: The Disinformation War – Panorama” (BBC1, Feb 15th, 2021). Colliver said that social media sites had been too slow to deal with harmful misinformation about vaccines. Colliver, according to the ISD website, was “…Head of Digital Policy and Strategy at ISD, leading a global team of analysts studying disinformation and extremism online…Chloe has worked on the development of the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism with Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and Google, and has provided expert testimony to the UK Home Affairs Select Committee, the Swedish, New Zealand, Canadian, French and German governments, the International Grand Committee on Disinformation and the Global Counter Terrorism Forum on digital policy and tech regulation. Her work has appeared in CNN, the BBC, Sky News, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Wired and Bloomberg. Chloe is a Yale Mellon Fellow and sits on the Advisory Board for Accountable Tech.”

The aforementioned GIFCT (Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism) was founded by Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and YouTube in 2017, with the mission “…to prevent terrorists and violent extremists from exploiting digital platforms… the Forum was designed to foster technical collaboration among member companies, advance relevant research, and share knowledge with smaller platforms.” (see their website).

Colliver and the ISD teamed up with the BBC during the pandemic in 2020 for a study, as reported online by the BBC’s flagship technology TV show “Click”: 

“Now, a co-investigation by BBC Click and the UK counter-extremism think-tank Institute of Strategic Dialogue, indicates how both extremist political and fringe medical communities have tried to exploit the pandemic online. [Sub headline]Blaming immigration. Chloe Colliver led the study: “We started doing this research because we were interested to look at the intersection of extremism and disinformation online,” she explained. “We wanted to know how the coronavirus crisis was affecting those trends.”” (See “Coronavirus: Far-right spreads Covid-19 ‘infodemic’ on Facebook”, By Carl Miller, BBC Click, Published 4 May 2020 on the BBC NEWS website).

ISD employees in 2021 included:-

1) SASHA HAVLICEK – the ISD’s Founding CEO. According to the ISD website, Havlicek “…has spearheaded partnerships with the UN, EU Commission and Global Counter-Terrorism Forum… Sasha serves as an expert advisor to the UK Counter-Extremism Commission and the Mayor of London’s counter-extremism programme, and is a member of the European Council on Foreign Relations…and is a regular commentator in the media (CNN, BBC, Channel 4 News and other networks)…She has spearheaded the largest global network of former extremists (AVE) in partnership with Google’s Jigsaw; the Strong Cities Network, the first global counter-extremism cities network; and the Innovation Hub, a partnership with Facebook, Google and Twitter to counter extremists’ online efforts. Most recently she launched The Online Civil Courage Initiative designed to amplify efforts to counter hate speech online, with Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg.”

2) MILO COMERFORD – the IDS’s Head of Policy & Research for Counter-Extremism. “Milo features regularly in international media, including CNN, BBC News, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Times, Sky News and Al Jazeera. Milo was previously Senior Analyst at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, where he led major research projects on Salafi-jihadi propaganda, international educational responses to extremism, and the transnational far right.”

Partners of the aforementioned Tony Blair Institute for Global Change included: 

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL)

Microsoft Philanthropies APAC (Asia-Pacific Countries)

Microsoft Philanthropies MEA (Middle East & Africa)

Overseas Development Institute (ODI)

The Rockefeller Foundation

3) JONATHAN BIRDWELL – ISD Senior Policy Fellow. “Until 2020, he was ISD’s Deputy Director with responsibility for Research, Policy and Cities work, overseeing ISD’s policy work and networks including the Policy Planners’ Network and the Strong Cities Network, as well as overseeing ISD’s work on education policy and programming…Prior to joining ISD, Jonathan was Head of Programme at the UK cross-party think tank Demos, where he published over forty research reports on topics including violent extremism both Islamist (The Edge of Violence, 2010) and Far-Right (The New Face of Digital Populism, 2011).”