A hacker group claims to have obtained documents shedding light on the activities of a London-based NGO that officially has a noble mission: to “defend democracy against disinformation.” Instead, the project, known as Integrity Initiative, was reportedly used by London to interfere in the domestic affairs of European countries.
The online hacker group Anonymous said on Friday that the British government has created a “large-scale information secret service” across Europe, the US and Canada to meddle into the domestic affairs of European nations.
Citing a “large number” of leaked documents, Anonymous claimed that Integrity Initiative, a network of clusters across Europe and North America launched in autumn 2015 to “reveal and combat propaganda and disinformation”, was in reality a project funded and operated by London through “concealed contacts in British embassies.”
As the most vivid example of the project’s activities, the hacker group cites its operation “Moncloa” in Spain, which was allegedly launched earlier this year to stop Pedro Baños, a colonel known for his pro-Russia sympathies, from being appointed the new head of Spain’s influential intelligence office. The Spanish chapter accomplished its task “in several hours,” the report says, preventing a pro-Russian voice from shaping Spanish policy.
According to the documents Anonymous published, Integrity Initiative’s Spanish cluster kicked off a campaign on Twitter in June 2018 to stir up media turbulence and prod Spanish political parties to ask Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to scrap the appointment.
Anonymous maintains that British intelligence is able to conduct similar operations in France, Germany, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Norway, Serbia, and Montenegro. The group claims that London seeks to create similar clusters across the globe in the long run, including in the Middle East, North Africa, the US, and Europe as part of “quiet colonisation of both former British neighbors in the EU and NATO allies.”
“All the work is done under absolute secrecy via concealed contacts in British embassies, which gives rise to more suspicion that Britain uses plausible excuse to create a global system of information influence and political interference into the affairs of other countries.”
The docs also showed that the Integrity Initiative’s costs for the fiscal year ending on March 31, 2019 were estimated at 1.96 million pounds ($2.51 million). Apart from the UK government and NATO, the program is founded by Facebook, the US State Department and other governmental and non-governmental structures, according to the leaked files.
The UK government as well as countries mentioned in the report have yet to comment on the leak.
Anonymous is a hacker movement advocating “freedom on the internet” and protesting against internet censorship. The group was launched in 2002 and has since hacked several government websites.
The hacktivists strongly oppose terrorist groups: the group declared cyberwar on Daesh* after the November 13, 2015 series of deadly attacks in Paris.
Perhaps the most popular action associated with Anonymous was the so-called Million Mask March against “government control.”
*Daesh (aka IS/ISIS/Islamic State) is a terror group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.
Integrity Initiative Confirms Authenticity of Some of Leaked Documents
According to the hacker group that leaked the documents, the UK used the Integrity Initiative to meddle in the domestic affairs of other European states and to wage an information war against Russia.
The Integrity Initiative, project claiming to be aimed at “combating propaganda and disinformation,” has admitted in an official statement that it was recently hacked by unknown hackers and that the documents leaked by Anonymous on 23 November 2018 at least partially belong to them, including one describing major donations from the UK government.
“It is of course a matter of deep regret that Integrity Initiative documents have been stolen and posted online,” the statement said.
Still, in the statement, the initiative admitted that it hadn’t checked all of the leaked files, claiming that some of them may be fake or “doctored.” The Integrity Initiative noted that the published files were either outdated or had not been used, but were kept for possible use in the future.
Commenting on the information about British government funding, the Integrity Initiative noted that for the first two years of its existence, between 2015 and 2017, it had mostly been funded privately, beginning to receive a grant from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office only in 2017. The statement claimed that the grant was just an “appreciation of the importance” of their work intended to “resist malicious disinformation and influence campaigns.”
The statement also noted that not all of the experts whose contact information had been published along with the documents had been contacted by or worked with the Integrity Initiative. The project promised to inform all of them about the incident and that their contact information had been published.
The Integrity Initiative claims to be devoted to combating “propaganda and disinformation,” but most of its material is targeted at Russia. In a statement regarding the recent hack, it admits focusing on Russia, despite its declared goal to fight disinformation in general.
Earlier, several websites linked to the hacker group Anonymous published documents stolen from the Integrity Initiative on 23 November 2018. A major account linked to the group later claimed that it was not responsible for the leak.
According to the documents, the project has largely been funded by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, receiving some $2.51 million, a sum nearly equal to the cost of initiative’s yearly program — $2.5 million. The hackers alleged that the British government had used the group to meddle in the domestic affairs of several European states and to wage an information war against Russia.