Since bursting onto the scene as a potential silver bullet to the rise of alleged disinformation, The Burkean has documented the rise and potential fall of the tech start up Kinzen.

A love child of former RTÉ presenter turned Twitter executive Mark Little and a coterie of politically well connected journalists, the charter of Kinzen is to provide social media companies and governments with the tools to clamp down on disinformation through tailored algorithms.

In essence, using their networks and analytical tools, Kinzen would be an outsourced third party for the state and tech platforms to thin the herd on anything they deem unacceptable online.

Kinzen’s dreams of greatness were however punctured by the sterling work of Gary Kavanagh at Gript, which prefigured the cancelling of Department of Health contracts with the start up. 

Exposing the basic reality that Kinzen was more focused on targeting anti-government speech or even good faith critiques of covid policy rather than genuine disinformation, Kavanagh subsequently revealed the eye watering amounts the company was paid for miniscule amounts of work.

In total the Department of Health over the course of 9 months paid Kinzen a hefty €108k for what ostensibly appears to be regular emails consisting of which social media postings they deemed as disinformation.

Speaking as to the precise nature of the company within the Department’s anti-disinformation strategy in response to a parliamentary question from Carol Nolan, Donnelly outlined the following arrangement with the firm.

“Kinzen produced a daily report of mis and disinformation topics and trends provided to my Department and the HSE, supported by a weekly meeting involving my officials and officials from the HSE to discuss current themes.”

An example of the genre of disinformation being monitored by Kinzen was the busting of the Zero Covid lobby similarly by Gript which documented the extent to which certain pro-lockdown advocates were allegedly stoking up public fears.

The above screenshot and rhetoric taken from one of Kinzen’s ‘Vaccine Disinformation Digests’ points to the blatantly partisan nature of the work done by the group. What is striking other than the typos is the sloppiness inherent in the report.

Gript followed up their reporting by releasing in toto the reports sent to the Department. Revealing a rather paltry level of detail no different than what could have been gleaned from browsing Twitter daily, the particular focus on the outcome of Dublin Bay South election as way as criticisms of lockdown indicates a worrying feature creep in Kinzen’s mission.

The fact such ‘reporting’ merited such funding hints at a rather dysfunctional tendering process similar to an anonymous antifascist blog that received €225,000 in charity funding.

Is this the calibre of reporting that merited over a €100,000 of Department of Health funding amid an alleged pandemic?

What on earth did the lobbying process consist of considering even the Minister himself saw fit to put a fork in the process upon outside scrutiny?

An added element were attempts by Kinzen to apply pressure to both journalists with the Journal as well as the Department of Health to cover up the company’s involvement with the management of disinformation. 

Per their requests, mention of Kinzen was scrubbed from Journal.ie reporting on the Department of Health’s fight against disinformation.

Kinzen isn’t some rogue company, but regarded as a pillar of the media community, with Little himself featuring prolifically in the Future of Media Commission.

While the remit of the contract was to focus on vaccine disinformation, even the most cursory of examinations would show Kinzen had stepped well beyond the mark into attempted political censorship.

Rather cagey as to why the contract was cancelled, Stephen Donnelly mentioned faults in the tendering process which led to the Department of Health to part ways with the company. For a wider look at the HSE’s fixation on alleged hate speech, Ken Foxe has documented the social media posts which the health executive flagged as disinformation.

So wedded Kinzen is to our political and media establishment any genuine criticism from the mainstream is nigh on impossible. With a senior executive married to an Oireachtas member and Little regarded as a professional kingmaker among journalists, what avenue is there to apply breaks to the company, especially in how sloppy the tendering process was.

Kinzen and entities like it have been transplanted here to fight an information war on those who would break from the consensus consuming our society since the advent of the covid era.

What goes for covid also goes for those going against the grain on social matters and the salient issue of immigration and demographics.

They may cloak themselves in corporate titles and government contracts but they are effective legitimising devices for the totalitarianism tearing our society asunder.

Stop treating them as anything other.

Posted by Ciaran Brennan

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