Institute for Statecraft

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The Institute for Statecraft is a charity founded in 2009 by Christopher Donnelly[1] and Daniel Lafayeedney[2], legally based in Fife, Scotland. Its stated objects are to advance education in the fields of governance and statecraft, and to advance human rights.[3] The organisation manages the 'Integrity Initiative' amongst other projects.[4][5] It has received considerable government funding, nearly £2 million for 2018-19.[5]

Integrity Initiative[edit]

The Integrity Initiative is a project of the Institute for Statecraft with a stated mission of defending democracy from disinformation, in particular from Russia.[4][5][6]

In late 2018, Russian media asserted that the international hacktivist group Anonymous released documents about the Integrity Initiative, that purported to show the programme was part of a disinformation project to interfere in other countries. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office blamed Russia for the release of documents, which were said to be "intended to confuse audiences and discredit an organisation which is working independently to tackle the threat of disinformation".[7][8] The GCHQ National Cyber Security Centre launched an inquiry into possible computer security breaches at the Institute for Statecraft.[7]

Politically motivated Twitter incident[edit]

In December 2018, the Sunday Mail reported that The Integrity Initiative's Twitter account had been used to attack Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party and Seumas Milne, the director of communications for Corbyn. The Foreign Office minister, Alan Duncan ordered an investigation into the reports and stated “Not only must [anti-Labour attacks by Statecraft] stop, I want to know why on earth it happened in the first place.”[9][10] MP Chris Williamson argued that it promoted the "denigration of the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn" and called for an inquiry.[11] In response to Labour Party complaints about this use of government funds in a parliamentary question on the 12 December 2018 The Minister stated that government funding "does [not] fund the management of the Integrity Initiative’s social media account", to which Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry responded that the Integrity Initiative project proposal included "social media activity".[4][5] On 13 December 2018, the Scottish charity regulator OSCR confirmed it had opened an inquiry into the Institute for Statecraft.[12]

In April 2019, Christopher Donnelly apologised, noting that Scottish charity law does not allow them to make party political comment:

"We put out something like 26,000 tweets ... About 400 made reference to some political party or politician, and they were roughly equal between the main political parties, but we should not have sent [them] because the Foreign Office does not allow us to make any party political comment, nor does Scottish charity law. That was a mistake and we wrote letters of apology to Jeremy Corbyn. I have been special adviser to two Tory defence secretaries, and for Labour’s John Reid and George Robertson, so we are as apolitical as we could be."[13][14]

The Daily Record, which had published an examination of the Integrity Initiave earlier in 2019, was critical of the organisation after the release of the apology. In an editorial, it said that the Integrity Initiative "has apparently left itself exposed to Russian hackers, fallen foul of Foreign Office rules, made itself the subject of an emergency question in the House of Commons and apparently broken charity law". It claimed the organisation runs "clusters of media people, some who admit to being involved, others who don’t".[14] The Labour party also called for an investigation of the Integrity Initiative and its links to the British government.[15]

Funding[edit]

The Integrity Initiative received government funding of £296,500 in the 2017-18 financial year and would receive a further £1,961,000 in 2018-19. This funding was allocated from the cross-department Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF), to counter "disinformation" overseas, as part of a £100 million five years programme.[16][6][17] The funding was part of the Counter Disinformation and Media Development Programme.[18][19]

In Financial Years 2016-17 and 2017-18, the UK Ministry of Defence through its Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust's Local Grants Programme awarded a total of £177,650 to 12 separate small projects run by the Shared Outcomes Programme, an initiative of the Institute for Statecraft. In addition, in 2017 the British Army made a payment of £6,800 to the Institute for Statecraft for specialist training.[20]

The Institute for Statecraft has also received funding from NATO, the Lithuanian Ministry of Defence, the US State Department and Facebook.[21]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ ltd, company check. "MR CHRISTOPHER NIGEL DONNELLY director information. Free director information. Director id 911708036". Company Check.
  2. ^ "Mr Daniel Lafayeedney - St Antony's College". www.sant.ox.ac.uk.
  3. ^ "The Institute for Statecraft, Registered Charity no. SC040870". Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.
  4. ^ a b c Ferguson, John (16 December 2018). "Tory minister 'misled Parliament' over Government-funded infowars attack on Jeremy Corbyn". Daily Record. Retrieved 23 December 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d Gayle, Damien (13 December 2018). "Foreign Office denies state funds went to Twitter account criticising Labour". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 December 2018.
  6. ^ a b Duncan, Alan (3 December 2018). "Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Integrity Initiative: Written question - 196177". House of Commons. UK Parliament. Retrieved 23 December 2018.
  7. ^ a b Fisher, Lucy (11 December 2018). "Russia linked to hacking of anti-propaganda initiative". The Times. London. Retrieved 23 December 2018.
  8. ^ Rowland Manthorpe; Alexander J Martin (11 December 2018). "Political tweets, "infowars" and a Russia: how a fake news row went mainstream". Sky News. Retrieved 23 December 2018.
  9. ^ Ferguson, John (9 December 2018). "Secret Scottish-based office led infowars attack on Labour and Jeremy Corbyn". Sunday Mail. Retrieved 23 December 2018.
  10. ^ Walker, Peter (10 December 2018). "Foreign Office investigates reports that state-funded body targeted Corbyn". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 December 2018.
  11. ^ Ball, James (9 January 2019). "When free societies copy Russian media tactics, there's only one winner". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  12. ^ "OSCR opens inquiry into the Institute for Statecraft". OSCR. Retrieved 24 December 2018.
  13. ^ McLaughlin, Mark (6 April 2019). "Hacker-hit research group the Integrity Initiative is sorry for Jeremy Corbyn tweets". The Times. London. Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  14. ^ a b "Integrity Initiative outliers are the real 'useful idiots' in political Twitter storm". Daily Record. 7 April 2019. Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  15. ^ Ferguson, John (7 April 2019). "Calls for probe into Scots-based infowars after they apologise to Jeremy Corbyn". Daily Record. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  16. ^ Landale, James (10 December 2018). "Russia hack 'bid to discredit' UK anti-disinformation campaign - Foreign Office". BBC News. Retrieved 23 December 2018.
  17. ^ Duncan, Alan (10 December 2018). "Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Integrity Initiative:Written question - 200677". House of Commons. UK Parliament. Retrieved 24 December 2018.
  18. ^ Duncan, Alan (10 December 2018). "Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Integrity Initiative:Written question - 198811". UK Parliament. Retrieved 25 December 2018.
  19. ^ "Counter Disinformation and Media Development (formally Russian Language)". gov.uk. 20 March 2019. CSSF-05-000006. Retrieved 9 April 2019. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  20. ^ Ellwood, Tobias (13 December 2018). "Ministry of Defence: Institute for Statecraft:Written question - 200608". UK Parliament. Retrieved 25 December 2018.
  21. ^ Fraser, Ian (16 December 2018). "Tory minister's U-turn on infowars attack on Jeremy Corbyn smacks of Cold War dirty tricks". Daily Record. Retrieved 18 January 2019.

External links[edit]