Good tidings it appears have reached Moonshot, a tech startup geared towards counter-extremism, which announced this week the hiring of 37 analysts as it seeks to open a Dublin office.
Making a name for itself for its role combating and surveilling extremist groups jointly with the British Home Office (the agency which operates MI5), and the US Department of Homeland Security among others. The intrusion of Moonshot into Irish affairs merits some inspection as to its history, methods and backers.
Founded by Cobh-born and former Corporal with the Army Reserves, Ross Frenett, Moonshot since its genesis in 2015 has enjoyed a variety of British and American government contracts, monitoring Irish republican and Islamist groups, more often than not in conjunction with the major tech giants. In partnership with the arch-Zionist ADL, as well as tech giants like Facebook, it would appear Frenett and his company mixes with the movers and shakers of the online and lobbying world.
Providing analytic tools in the monitoring and hampering of extremist groups, in 2019 the company published an extensive report as to the online machinations of dissident republicans. Since the rapid arrival of the Islamic State onto the international scene, the firm had specialised in Islamist terrorism, before taking a turn to keep tabs on the radical right.
Recently Moonshot has been getting its talons into punditry around the rise of the alleged far right here, providing so-called detailed analysis of search engine results by age and location of those searching extremist content in Ireland.
Aside from government and big tech contracts, Moonshot derives a lot of its funding through venture capital firms such as Berengia, a UK-based VC firm, which helped raise $7 million this year for the company to help monitor and disrupt online extremism. Unusually for a venture capital firm, some in Berengia’s seniority have backgrounds as senior British army officers, and likewise Moonshot’s other fundraising partner, Mercia Asset Management, has staff who worked for the British Foreign Office.
For a flavour as to what future Dublin employees at Moonshot will be doing, one only needs to look at the job description for some of the 37 roles on offer, laying out the technical skills required to maintain and develop the systems that the firm uses to combat extremism.
A UCC graduate and formerly a big noise around campus debating circles, (he ironically helped platform David Irving in 2008), Frenett, the company’s founder, maintains a rather fulsome media profile.
Outlining his views on tackling the radical right in a series of Irish Examiner columns, Frenett desires a more heavy handed approach to mitigating the alleged threat of the far right.
Wanting the government to lean on tech firms regarding censorship, as well as to proscribe a series of foreign right-wing terrorist organisations known to be run by intelligence agencies anyway as honeypots, Frenett is probably a poor advertisement for what should be a security guru. Frenett’s recommendations include banning the likes of National Action and Combat 18, English organisations with no presence in Ireland and which in the case of the former are notorious known for being operated by British intelligence.
Specialising in counterterrorism studies, Frenett has bounced around a series of counter-extremism think tanks since his time in the Defence Forces. Most notable among his former gigs were the Institute of Strategic Dialogue (ISD), which this publication covered in depth for their recent entry into the Irish milieu under the guise of Tír Chonaill’s most proficient Qanon expert, Aoife Gallagher.
Something of a powerhouse in tech censorship, ISD was founded by the Zionist lobbyist Baron Weidenfeld before changing hands to a member of the European Council on Foreign Relations, Sasha Havlicek. With its fingerprints on a variety of initiatives to counter extremism, normally of the Islamist and far right variety, ISD is the global player when it comes to tech censorship.
Moonshot’s current CEO Vidhya Ramalinga, herself a former ISD employee having cut her teeth with the multicultural advocacy group the Runnymede Trust, outlined Moonshot’s relationship with security agencies in a 2019 testimonial at the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
‘We design new technology and methods to directly engage violent extremists, and those at-risk [sic] of perpetrating violence. We work regularly with the U.S. Department of State to deliver strategic communications programs to respond to a broad range of violent extremist and terrorist threats online. Since our inception in 2015, Moonshot CVE has worked with governments across the globe to deliver programs to disrupt terrorists of all kinds.”
Ramalinga is also reputed to have “held various roles including Commissioning Panellist for the UK Security and Intelligence agencies”, and was a previous Board Member of “Life After Hate”, an American organisation which was awarded a $400,000 grant by the Department of Homeland Security and which some have labelled a recruitment tool for security agencies.
Of all Frenett’s numerous Twitter interactions, it is those with antifascist activist and NGO-junkie Mark Malone, which ought be of particular interest in illustrating the semi-adjacent nature of these companies with the supposedly anti-system far left.
Something of a left-wing Svengali, if Svengali was a scauldy-looking anarchist from Armagh, Malone has been living large off the State-funded NGO train for over a decade, after washing up as a radical amid a nasty embroilment with the infamous SpyCops fiasco, which saw British Police infiltrate Irish radical groups.
Spending his days phoning it in at his cushy number at the State-backed Comhlámh charity, Malone should better hope that his fight against the radical right goes better than his current battle with male pattern baldness. Regardless of his self-evident political amorality, Malone is central to antifascist activism in Ireland.
It should strike readers as a given, despite the given constraints this author labours under, that the actual nature of Moonshot is in relation to its role in servicing Anglo-American security agencies. It is not the role of this author to make insinuations about what the effective function of the Moonshot is, but to present enough evidence as aforementioned to begin ringing alarm bells.
We are only just out of the gates in the formation of a genuine radical right response to the foibles of globalism, yet like the proverbial moth to the flame, we have attracted the attention of a coterie of well-networked groups and serial grifters. Moonshot will implant itself into the media sphere, pressing the flesh with policymakers, tech companies and left-wing activists alike, partially driven by Ireland’s strategic place in big data management, but mostly out of personal avarice.
Incumbent is the duty for publications such as this to keep tabs on Moonshot and affiliates, doing a job ignored by an ideologically doped media. Moonshot is one to keep an eye on, and hopefully will mean less time monitoring the media appearances of a rather lacklustre Aoife Gallagher, which is something at least.