Was ‘Institute for Statecraft’ behind Ofcom’s targeting of RT? Sleuths point to yes

Was ‘Institute for Statecraft’ behind Ofcom’s targeting of RT? Sleuths point to yes
Documents that show the shadowy UK outfit ‘Institute for Statecraft’ previously filed complaints to Ofcom about RT raise the question if the impetus for the regulator’s most recent actions against RT came from the same source.

On Thursday, Ofcom announced it had found RT in breach of UK impartiality rules in seven instances, going back to March and April this year.

“RT is extremely disappointed by Ofcom's conclusions in what were almost all self-initiated investigations into RT by the regulator,” the network said in response.

Ofcom makes it public when a broadcast receives ten or more more complaints. Yet the purported complaints about RT shows are nowhere to be seen on its website, as former Scotland Yard detective Charles Shoebridge points out.

Shoebridge then did some old-fashioned detective work, and found that Ofcom might have actually received external complaints about RT – but not from members of the British public, but a government sock-puppet, the “Institute for Statecraft.” That shadowy outfit was recently unmasked by a trove of leaked documents, published by a group claiming to be the hacker collective Anonymous.

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The main objective of the Institute's ‘Integrity Initiative’ is "to provide a coordinated Western response to Russian disinformation and other elements of hybrid warfare,” according to the published documents. The Institute for Statecraft is affiliated with the NATO HQ Public Diplomacy Division and a program funded by the UK Home Office.

Among the trove of documents, Shoebridge found a 2016 production timetable by the Institute for Statecraft. While it mostly a list of publications dominated by Ben Nimmo –  the Atlantic Council’s chief “Russian troll hunter” and Facebook’s designated defender of democracy – it does contain this very interesting line item:

24 March: eight complaints forwarded to Ofcom on RT's failure to ensure due impartiality with request to launch a formal investigation

This raises the question of where the 2018 complaints about RT came from, Shoebridge wrote.

His research has attracted the attention of other journalists.

Both the Institute and the Initiative have faced criticism in the UK over the past month, though not over targeting Russia as much as for their activities directed against the opposition Labour Party and its leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Meanwhile, Russia’s broadcast authority Roskomnadzor has responded to Ofcom’s actions by opening an impartiality probe into the BBC, the British state broadcaster.

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