Last week the New York Times revealed that money from tech billionaire Reid Hoffman was used to run a small disinformation “experiment” aimed at helping Democrat Doug Jones win last year’s Alabama special Senate election. That resulted in Facebook suspending five accounts and Hoffman issuing an apology.
But left unmentioned in the Times story was that one of its authors learned about the Alabama campaign when he spoke at an off-the-record meeting organized by the same group who ran the operation. A copy of a confidential report about the Alabama effort, obtained by BuzzFeed News, raises new questions about whether the project was — as the Times said — an “experiment,” or whether it was a straightforward Democratic attempt to replicate the model of the Russian Internet Research Agency.
Scott Shane, a Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times national security reporter, was one of a handful of speakers at a meeting held in Washington in early September by American Engagement Technologies, according to an agenda obtained by BuzzFeed News. AET is run by Mikey Dickerson, who previously served in the Obama administration. The organization received $750,000 in funding that originated with Hoffman and spent approximately $100,000 of that on what was dubbed “Project Birmingham.”
During the meeting, Dickerson and Sara Hudson, a former Justice Department employee who now works for a company partly funded by Hoffman, detailed the results of their attempt to use social media and online ads to suppress Republican votes, “enrage” Democratic voters to help with turnout, and execute a “false flag” to hurt the campaign of Republican Roy Moore.