Emails released from Hillary Clinton’s Secretary of State cache show Google executives interest in Syria.
Jared Cohen, Head of Google Ideas at the time contacted the State Department in 2012 about a project that encouraged Syrian government defectors. Google planned to work with Al Jazeera to disseminate their defector map.
The email reads:
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.
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.
Given how hard it is to get information into Syria right now, we are partnering with Al-Jazeera who will take primary ownership over the tool we have built, track the data, verify it, and broadcast it back into Syria. I’ve attached a few visuals that show what the tool will look like.
Please keep this very close hold and let me know if there is anything eke you think we need to account for or think about before we launch. We believe this can have an important impact.
Original email here:
Rudy Takala from the Washington Examiner explains:
The message was addressed to deputy secretary of state Bill Burns; Alec Ross, a senior Clinton advisor; and Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, Jake Sullivan. Sullivan subsequently forwarded Cohen’s proposal to Clinton, describing it as “a pretty cool idea.”
Cohen worked as a low-level staffer at the State Department until 2010, when he was hired to lead Google Ideas, but was tied to the use of social media to incite social uprisings even before he left the department. He once reportedly asked Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to hold off of conducting system maintenance that officials believed could have impeded a brief 2009 uprising in Iran.
The unusual involvement by Google in foreign affairs highlights the difficulty of involvement in the internal politics of foreign states. While Cohen seemed to consider his company’s effort as helpful to American interests, the effort to overthrow Assad helped spur the rise of the Islamic State, which eventually filled a vaccuum resulting from Assad’s loss of control over of Syria.
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