Roger Sollenberger – a journalist responsible for dubiously sourced stories attacking high-profile conservatives like Herschel Walker and Rep. Matt Gaetz – previously worked for a Chinese Communist Party-linked company blacklisted by the U.S. government for its ties to the regime’s military.
Sollenberger, a reporter for The Daily Beast, is credited with breaking stories that targeted the Georgia Senate candidate, including reports about a secret son and allegations he paid for a woman’s abortion. Sollenberger was also responsible for an exclusive story accusing American Conservative Union (ACU) Chairman Matt Schlapp of “groping” a male staffer for Walker’s campaign.
Described as a “relative newcomer to journalism,” Sollenberger previously worked for the controversial Chinese Communist Party-linked drone company DJI.
Since 2017, China-based DJI has been flagged by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as “selectively targeting government and privately owned entities within these sectors to expand its ability to collect and exploit sensitive U.S. data.”
These fears have prompted the U.S. Department of Interior to ground its entire DJI drone fleet, “citing increasing concerns about the national security risk from Chinese manufacturers.” The Department of Defense and U.S. Army have also followed suit due to national security and data privacy concerns, as DJI routinely complies with data-sharing requests from the Chinese Communist Party.
Recently, the company was sanctioned by the U.S. government and added to a blacklist over its ties to Beijing’s military and role in the Chinese Communist Party’s surveillance of Uyghur Muslims in China. DJI is considered a “Chinese military company,” meaning its technologies are designed in a way that can support the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)’s objectives.
The New York Times reported on a 2016 press briefing in China where DJI spokesman Zhang Fanxi described how the company “is complying with requests from the Chinese government to hand over data.”
Despite these ties, a 2015 version of Sollenberger’s professional bio notes he “worked for DJI,” though the affiliation is excluded from his bio on The Daily Beast website. A separate webpage notes that he “worked for DJI North America;” however, a video posted on the page can no longer be viewed by the general public.
Sollenberger previously worked as the editorial director at 3D Robotics (3DR), a California-based consumer drone company. A former competitor to DJI, 3DR ultimately partnered with the Chinese Communist Party-linked company in 2017.
3DR provided DJI drones with its “Site Scan” technology, which is often used for surveillance of people and properties.
“A drone with a high-resolution camera running the Site Scan software enables those working at every stage of a construction project to keep track of the design they’re working towards. An architect can use it to scan the surface of where their building will be going and use that to create an accurate model from which to design their structure; engineers can use it to make sure they’re building exactly as intended, and to catch any deviations from the original design models,” explained a Quartz announcement regarding the partnership.
The collaboration, however, had the potential to be used for a vast array of industries. As Quartz explained:
“In the future, this sort of technology could be applied to any industry where objects need to be surveyed—a farmer ensuring his crops are coming in as intended, for example, or transportation authorities checking up on the health of their infrastructure. But for now, Anderson and his team are focused on construction.”
It is unclear whether this technology has been used by DJI drones engaged in the surveillance of Uyghur Muslims in China.
By Natalie Winters