The Center for Countering Digital Hate is a London-based advocacy group that targets accused “hate groups” and individuals for de-platforming campaigns to remove them from major social media outlets. The Center is best known for working with Rachel Riley to remove controversial far-right commentator Katie Hopkins from Twitter and conspiracy theorist David Icke from Facebook and Youtube.
In June 2020, the group launched a campaign that was promoted by NBC’s News Verification Unit against American conservative commentary website The Federalist, seeking to have Google ban the site from its advertising platform.
CCDH has ties to the left-wing British Labour Party. The group’s founder, Imran Ahmed, is a former advisor to Labour Members of Parliament Hilary Benn and Angela Eagle. Board member Kristy McNeill is a former adviser to former Labour Party British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and former board member Morgan McSweeney resigned from the board to become chief of staff to Labour Party leader Keir Starmer.
In January 2020, the Center for Countering Digital Hate and British television presenter Rachel Riley began a campaign against Katie Hopkins, a British columnist and reality television star. Hopkins is well known for her commentary on social media where she is an outspoken proponent of immigration restrictions and has made inflammatory comments that have led to accusations of racism. She has also attracted attention for being retweeted by President Donald Trump. In mid-January, Riley and Center CEO Imran Ahmed held a meeting with Twitter executives in London to advocate for Hopkins’s removal from their platform on the grounds that she was using Twitter to “spread hate.”
On January 30, Hopkins’s Twitter account was suspended for a week and all her past tweets were hidden. Twitter attributed the suspension to a violation of its “hateful conduct” policy. On June 19, Hopkins’s account was permanently suspended.
In January, the Center and Riley also targeted former radical-left Member of Parliament George Galloway, whom they accused of spreading anti-Semitism online. At their meeting with Twitter executives, the Center and Riley pointed to an allegedly anti-Semitic Tweet which had gotten Galloway fired from talkRADIO. Though Twitter reviewed Galloway’s profile, his account was not suspended.
In April, the Center launched a campaign to de-platform David Icke, a conspiracy theorist best known for his theory that shape-shifting reptilians secretly control the world. In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, Icke has promoted a conspiracy theory that Jews and other nefarious elites have been using vaccines and the 5G cellular network to make people vulnerable to COVID-19. He also claims that healthy people cannot be infected by the disease. In response, the center published a 25-page essay entitled #deplatformicke which publicly called for his removal from all major tech and social media websites. As of May 2, the Center’s open letter attached to its essay had collected over 800 signatures.
In early May, Youtube and Facebook deleted Icke’s accounts on their sites. Youtube issued a public statement that Icke had violated “policies prohibiting any content that disputes the existence and transmission of Covid-19 as described by the WHO and the NHS.”
On June 16, financial blog Zero Hedge was banned from Google’s advertising platform, effectively demonetizing the site. Google made the decision after receiving a report from the Center which claimed that comment sections on Zero Hedge articles regarding Black Lives Matter contained racist content.
Also on June 16, Google’s advertising platform issued a warning to The Federalist, a right-of-center political website, over racism in comment sections related to the George Floyd protests. The possible policy violation was brought to Google’s attention by the Center.
With the outbreak of COVID-19, the Center for Countering Digital Hate has launched a campaign against alleged misinformation that opposes public health officialdom’s views on controlling the virus. According to the Center’s website, misinformation is being peddled by four types of actors: hate groups, groups which financially profit from misinformation, fringe political groups, and innocently misinformed citizens.
Don’t Feed the Trolls
In 2019, the Center for Countering Digital Hate published a 12-page pamphlet entitled Don’t Feed the Trolls: How to Deal with Hate on Social Media. The pamphlet calls for high-profile individuals on social media to entirely ignore “trolls,” or commenters who deliberately provoke negative reactions. The Center’s message has been endorsed by Rachel Riley and senior Labour Party figures including London Mayor Sadiq Khan and former Home Secretary Alan Johnson.
Center for Countering Digital Hate has ties to the left-wing British Labour Party and British left-progressivism. Imran Ahmed, a former Labour political advisor who wrote a book attacking the legacy of free-market thinker and Nobel-laureate economist Friedrich Hayek, founded CCDH in 2017. Ahmed previously advised then-Labour MP Hilary Benn and Angela Eagle, a Labour Party politician serving as an MP as of June 2020.Board members with ties to the Labour Party include Kristy McNeill, at one-time an advisor to former British Prime Minister and Labour Party leader Gordon Brown. Morgan McSweeney resigned from the CCDH board to become chief of staff for Labour Party leader Keir Starmer.
Other board members are associated with left-progressive organizations: Simon Clark is a nonresident senior fellow with the Democratic establishment-aligned think tank Center for American Progress, Johnny Oates is a Member of the UK House of Lords for the Liberal Democrats party, and Ayesha Saran is “migration program manager” for a UK-based left-progressive foundation.Game show host Rachel Riley is listed as the organization’s “patron.”