By Derrick Broze
The Conscious Resistance Network presents: The Pyramid of Power, a brand-new 16-part documentary series aimed at exposing the individuals and institutions which seek to manipulate our world.
By now, most viewers will be familiar with the well-publicized problems of social media. It’s purposefully addictive, produces jealousy, insecurity, and depression (and this) in some people, and the big socials sell your data for a profit. Despite the growing awareness of these problems, companies like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube are still some of the most widely used platforms in the world. Billions of people download these apps and use them to stay informed about the world. (Or, so they believe.)
While these issues are absolutely worrisome, they are not the only issues we should be concerned about. To understand the role social media plays in the “Pyramid of Power” we need to understand the origins of social media. More specifically, we need to understand the origins of the so-called “Big Tech” giants behind social media.
The Big Tech companies are the largest and most dominant companies in the information technology industry of the United States, namely Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. Alternatively, there are other labels, such as FAANG, which refers to the five prominent American tech companies: Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google, or Alphabet, Inc, Google’s parent company. The point is that these companies dominate information technology in most of the world and shape the direction of the various markets they operate in.
Amazon dominates the e-commerce/online sales market, as well AI smart assistants and smart speakers. Apple and Google share a monopoly on cell phones. Google, of course, claims the title of leading online search engine for most of the world, as well top video sharing with YouTube, and top online mapping and navigation with Google Maps. Microsoft dominates the operating system markets, shares the cloud computing market with Amazon, and is highly influential in the video game industry via their XBox system. Facebook is known for being one of the top 3 companies in digital advertising which they gained through their social networks. They also dominate image sharing with Instagram and messaging with WhatsApp and FB Messenger.
In fact, Big Tech’s growth in wealth and influence over the last decade has surpassed the wealth and influence of the Big Media companies we covered in chapter 2.
So where did these companies come from and are they influencing our world for ill or good?
The basic narrative, we are told, is that the Big Tech companies were started by brilliant men, mostly in California, in the area now commonly known as Silicon Valley. Through their hard work and determination, these companies were able to rise from garages and college dorms to become the giants we know them as today. There’s just one problem: this version of events is cartoonish at best and an outright deception at worst.
It’s important to understand that nearly every Big Tech tool you use today was funded, in part, by the U.S. intelligence community and supported in various ways by the U.S. government itself. The Rise of the Big Tech companies is not a fairy tale of free market success, but rather a dark and disturbing story of corporate welfare and deep ties to the intelligence community. In fact, most of the digital tools you use – including cell phones, GPS, and the internet itself started out as tools for the military. These tools were designed by the U.S. Department of Defense, under the direction of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA.
The Big Tech-Intelligence Complex
What we know as the internet, or the World Wide Web, was first developed by the military as the ARPANET. One of the best sources for the true origins of Big Tech is the book Surveillance Valley by researcher Yasha Levine. In his groundbreaking book, Levine outlines the role that the military and the intelligence apparatus played in advancing these tools from being used exclusively by the military, to being used by billions of people around the world.
(Clip 9:17-10:04, “Back then….)
Yasha Levine’s book Surveillance Valley cannot be overstated as an invaluable resource for understanding how the military and intelligence community helped fund various tools in the private sector in the hopes that doing so would provide them more data about the public at large.
In 2017, a former director of the the National Science Foundation shed more light when he published an article exploring the true founding of Google:
“The research arms of the CIA and NSA hoped that the best computer-science minds in academia could identify what they called ‘birds of a feather:'[sic] Just as geese fly together in large V shapes, or flocks of sparrows make sudden movements together in harmony, they predicted that like-minded groups of humans would move together online.
“Their research aim was to track digital fingerprints inside the rapidly expanding global information network, which was then known as the World Wide Web. Could an entire world of digital information be organized so that the requests humans made inside such a network be tracked and sorted? Could their queries be linked and ranked in order of importance? Could ‘birds of a feather’ be identified inside this sea of information so that communities and groups could be tracked in an organized way?”
Jeff Nesbit goes on to describe how Sergey Brin and Larry Page , the ostensible founders of Google, were originally funded “through an unclassified, highly compartmentalized program that was managed for the CIA and the NSA by large military and intelligence contractors. It was called the Massive Digital Data Systems (MDDS) project.”
Eventually, the research by Brin and Page under these grants became the heart of Google’s search engine. Nesbit writes, “The intelligence community, however, saw a slightly different benefit in their research: Could the network be organized so efficiently that individual users could be uniquely identified and tracked?”
In 2014, more details emerged regarding the relationship between Sergey Brin, former Google Executive Eric Schmidt and the National Security Agency. A Freedom of Information Act request revealed that Brin and Schmidt were on a first name basis with then-NSA chief General Keith Alexander. Additionally, Google was part of a “secretive government initiative known as the Enduring Security Framework,” and this initiative involved Silicon Valley partnering with the Pentagon and the US intelligence community to share information “at network speed.”
The connections between Google and the intelligence firms that have spent decades spying on the public, infiltrating the public school system and establishment media, also involve the CIA’s venture capital firm, In-Q-Tel. For example, we know that the software that would become Google Earth was born out of technology originally developed by the company Keyhole, Inc., which itself had a close relationship with the U.S. intelligence community.
However, Google was not the only Big Tech firm who maintained a relationship with In-Q-Tel. Facebook executives also had close ties to CIA venture capital firm In-Q-Tel. Journalist James Corbett reports (from here 14:49-15:50):
“Publicly, In-Q-Tel markets itself as an innovative way to leverage the power of the private sector by identifying key emerging technologies and providing companies with the funding to bring those technologies to market.
In reality, however, what In-Q-Tel represents is a dangerous blurring of the lines between the public and private sectors in a way that makes it difficult to tell where the American intelligence community ends and the IT sector begins.
Two of the names that come up most often in connection with In-Q-Tel, however, need no introduction: Google and Facebook.
The publicly available record on the Facebook/In-Q-Tel connection is tenuous. Facebook received $12.7 million in venture capital from Accel, whose manager, James Breyer, now sits on their board. He was formerly the chairman of the National Venture Capital Association, whose board included Gilman Louie, then the CEO of In-Q-Tel. The connection is indirect, but the suggestion of CIA involvement with Facebook, however tangential, is disturbing in the light of Facebook’s history of violating the privacy of its users.”
Around the time Facebook was launched, a similarly themed government project was coming to an end. LifeLog was a project of the Information Processing Techniques Office of DARPA, designed, “to be able to trace the ‘threads’ of an individual’s life in terms of events, states, and relationships”, with the ability to “take in all of a subject’s experience, from phone numbers dialed and e-mail messages viewed to every breath taken, step made and place gone”.
USA Today reported that, “Cameras and microphones would capture what the user sees or hears; sensors would record what he or she feels. Global positioning satellites would log every movement. Biomedical sensors would monitor vital signs. E-mails, instant messages, Web-based transactions, telephone calls and voicemails would be stored. Mail and faxes would be scanned. Links to every radio and television broadcast heard and every newspaper, magazine, book, Web site or database seen would be recorded.”
DARPA contractors stated that LifeLog’s software “will be able to find meaningful patterns in the timetable, to infer the user’s routines, habits and relationships with other people, organizations, places and objects.” Ultimately, the program was abandoned because of surveillance fears.
On February 4, 2004, Wired Magazine reported that the Pentagon was abandoning the Lifelog Project. Ironically, this is the exact day that Mark Zuckerberg launched his first iteration of Facebook.
Lifelog’s creator Douglas Gage recently told Motherboard he feels that in many ways Facebook has accomplished the goals of LifeLog. “I think that Facebook is the real face of pseudo-LifeLog at this point. I generally avoid using Facebook, only occasionally logging in to see what everyone is up to, and have never ‘liked’ anything.”
Another important note regarding social media and intelligence agencies, relates to the 2013 revelations by Edward Snowden. According to one of the documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the British government maintains software for “Online Persona Management”. The British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) operates an elite unit known as the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG).