Mint News Press | 29 March 2016
Together with Al-Jazeera, Google developed a tool to track defections in Syria, hoping to encourage more former Assad allies to join the civil war
Tech giant Google collaborated with Al-Jazeera to develop an interactive online tool to encourage defections during the Syrian civil war, according to emails in WikiLeaks’ archive of Hillary Clinton’s emails.
“Please keep close hold, but my team is planning to launch a tool on Sunday that will publicly track and map the defections in Syria and which parts of the government they are coming from,” wrote Jared Cohen, the founder and director of Google Ideas, of the proposed online tool in a July 25, 2012 email sent to Jacob J. Sullivan, deputy secretary of state under Clinton.
“Our logic behind this is that while many people are tracking the atrocities, nobody is visually representing and mapping the defections, which we believe are important in encouraging more to defect and giving confidence to the opposition.”
“We believe this can have an important impact,” Cohen added.
The archive reveals that Sullivan forwarded the email onto Clinton, adding, “This is a pretty cool idea.” Clinton, in turn, sent it to an assistant with instructions for the email to be printed.
In his email, Cohen revealed that Google Ideas was collaborating with Al-Jazeera, which published the tracker in English and Arabic shortly after Cohen’s email was sent. Although it was offline when this report was written, an internal analysis by Google called it “one of the most viewed visualizations on their site” and the tool later won an Online Media Award for the TV news network based in Doha, Qatar.
Google Ideas, which was renamed Jigsaw in a major company reorganization last year, is a think tank which maintains close ties to the State Department, according to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in his 2014 book “When Google Met WikiLeaks.”
Before leading Google Ideas, Cohen served at the State Department from 2006 to 2010 under Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Clinton. Assange wrote:
“It was Cohen who, while he was still at the Department of State, was said to have emailed Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to delay scheduled maintenance in order to assist the aborted 2009 uprising in Iran. His documented love affair with Google began the same year when he befriended Eric Schmidt as they together surveyed the post-occupation wreckage of Baghdad. Just months later, Schmidt re-created Cohen’s natural habitat within Google itself by engineering a ‘think/do tank’ based in New York and appointing Cohen as its head. Google Ideas was born.”
An op-ed published on Saturday by RT criticizes Western media for largely ignoring the story of collaboration between Al-Jazeera, Google, and the State Department, although a few mainstream sites like U.K.’s The Independent did cover the story. Michael William Lebron, a media analyst that publishes under the name “Lionel,” told RT:
“I don’t expect a reaction from Western media because Western media hasn’t even read this, has no idea about this … But can you imagine if the same set of facts were involved with the different countries, different corporations around the world depending upon your frame of reference. This would either be an outrage or ‘well, maybe this is a delightful and benign cooperation, an independent tech giant … and all for the common good of liberty’ and whatever. It depends upon your perspective.”