Background The Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) is a London-based nonprofit organization that “works with practitioners in diverse fields, such as political science, [behavioral] psychology, neurology, the law, countering violent extremism (CVE), counterterrorism and child protection, to develop strategies that strengthen tolerance and democracy, and counterstrategies to new forms of hate and misinformation” on the […]
The Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) is a London-based nonprofit organization that “works with practitioners in diverse fields, such as political science, [behavioral] psychology, neurology, the law, countering violent extremism (CVE), counterterrorism and child protection, to develop strategies that strengthen tolerance and democracy, and counterstrategies to new forms of hate and misinformation” on the Internet. Led by founder and CEO Imran Ahmed, CCDH advocates for the censorship and de-platforming of purveyors of such “hate and misinformation” from major social media outlets. CCDH’s definition of what actually constitutes “hate and misinformation,” is generally restricted to statements and opinions articulated by perceived enemies of the political left.
The Center was established in 2018 as Brixton Endeavors Limited and was renamed as CCDH in August 2019. The organization also has an office in Washington, D.C. and was recognized as an official nonprofit group in the U.S. in 2021.
In 2019, CCDH released a publication entitled Don’t Feed the Trolls: How to Deal with Hate on Social Media. This pamphlet serves as a guide to identifying “issues of common agreement between [Internet] trolls and populist politicians, such as a revulsion for ‘political correctness’ or ‘corrupt’ traditional elites, [as] a way to start discussions that resonate with wider swathes of the public but can then be used by bad actors to inject hate.” The guide also explores the mindset of such “trolls” and explains how to properly respond to them online. Included in the guide are several quotes from a “trolling playbook” of a “White Nationalist Group” as well as popular content of the “Alt-Right.”
Amid the spread of the global coronavirus outbreak in 2020, CCDH initiated a campaign that focused on “Dealing with Hate & Misinformation around COVID-19.” Specifically, the organization identified four types of actors chiefly responsible for spreading such “hate and misinformation,” which, by CCDH’s calculus, included virtually any statement questioning either the efficacy or the safety of the COVID vaccines. The following four items and their accompanying bullet points are taken directly from the CCDH website:
1) Hate actors:
- Blame out-groups for genesis and transmission of SARS-CoV-2;
- Instrumentalise fears that developing countries will not respond as effectively as Western countries to oppose future migration and re-opening of borders;
- Cast aspersions on loyalty of foreign-origin citizens, e.g. by highlighting failure to comply with national rules or claiming they are exploiting the crisis.
2) Economically-motivated actors:
- Cast doubt, using conspiracism and faux-populist/ anti-expert tropes, on governments and the scientific establishment in order to sell products they produce.
3) Fringe political actors:
- Undermine governments’ and scientific establishment’s credibility;
- Inculcate conspiracism.
4) Misinformed citizens
Among the CCDH projects that have specifically sought to censor and ban “misinformation” regarding COVID-19 and the COVID vaccines are the following:
In its effort to censor alleged misinformation concerning COVID-19, one of CCDH’s principal targets has been the former British soccer player and alleged “conspiracy theorist” David Icke. Following CCDH’s campaign to de-platform Icke, which included its release of a 25-page publication calling for his expulsion from all major social media platforms, Facebook and YouTube removed Icke’s accounts from their respective websites by May 2020. Six months later, in November 2020, Icke was likewise banned from Twitter for allegedly spreading COVID-19 misinformation among his nearly 382,000 followers.
In July 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden cited a CCDH report as the source of his claim that a handful of “just twelve people” on Facebook were responsible for “killing people” in enormous numbers by spreading falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines.
Accusing conservatives of having “instrumentalised” COVID-19 “to inculcate hate across a number of national, racial and religious categories, as well as to drive opposition to migration” to the West from Third World countries, CCDH further alleges: “Hatred has not been limited to [being aimed at] Chinese people; hate actors in the UK are already using terms such as #GermJihad and Alt Right actors are using solidaristic impulses in the British public to stimulate nationalistic/ xenophobic narratives.”
Additional noteworthy initiatives of CCDH include the following, which seek to restrict the range of acceptable opinions regarding such issues as climate change, election integrity, and the operational definition of racism:
In January 2020, CCDH leaders met with Twitter officials concerning Katie Hopkins, a conservative British political commentator, and called for Hopkins to be deprived of her “ability to use the platform to spread hate.” Following that meeting, Hopkins’ Twitter account was temporarily suspended for a week. Then, in June 2020, Twitter announced that Hopkins was being permanently banned from the platform for violating its “hateful conduct” rules. At that point, Twitter removed Hopkins’ account, which had over 1.1 million followers, without referencing any specific example of a violation which would have prompted the ban.
Notable targets which CCDH has attempted, with the help of Google, to blacklist for being critical of various leftist causes such as the Black Lives Matter movement, the climate change agenda, and COVID-19 “misinformation,” include:
Another key funder of CCDH is the Oak Foundation, which supports a wide variety of left-wing causes, including: (a) efforts to oppose the enforcement of U.S. immigration laws; (b) voter-registration and -mobilization efforts targeting demographic groups that tend to support Democrats; and (c) left-wing environmental groups. Moreover, the Oak Foundation has notable ties to the Chinese Communist Party, as reported by Breitbart.com: “In 2018, the Oak Foundation donated $1 million to an organization called the ClimateWorks Foundation, ‘to support the greening of the Belt and Road Initiative.’ The Belt and Road initiative is one of the Chinese Communist Party’s most ambitious projects, a vast global infrastructure project aimed at linking Europe, Russia, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, and the South Pacific in a trade network that starts and ends in China. The project comprises ports, railroads, airports, tunnels, dams, power stations, and entirely new cities, all aimed at centering the world’s trade routes on China through a combination of rail, sea, road, and air routes.”
Center for Countering Digital Hate