The State Department is indirectly bankrolling a "disinformation" monitoring group that has targeted non-liberal and conservative news organizations.
A British organization called the Global Disinformation Index (GDI) with ties to a pair of American nonprofits is feeding blacklists to ad companies with the intent of defunding and shutting down websites peddling alleged ‘disinformation,’" according to the Washington Examiner.
The Examiner reported the group "has received $330,000 from two State Department-backed entities linked to the highest levels of government" and is "likely costing the news organizations vital advertising dollars."
The group may remind Americans of President Biden’s short-lived Disinformation Governance Board that was scrapped in May 2022 after board director Nina Jankowicz and the group itself faced overwhelming backlash.
GDI gathers a "dynamic exclusion list" that it provides to major companies such as Microsoft’s Xandr, according to the report that cites emails as evidence.
"Xandr and other companies are, in turn, declining to place ads on websites that GDI flags as peddling disinformation," reporter Gabe Kaminsky wrote.
The Examiner is on the list itself, Kaminsky reported, along with "at least 2,000 websites."
GDI has also identified the 10 "riskiest" news organizations, which includes the New York Post, who broke the Hunter Biden laptop story that was censored by Big Tech outlets and falsely dismissed as Russian disinformation in some media outlets. The laptop has since been authenticated by a variety of news organizations and Hunter Biden’s own attorney essentially owned up to it earlier this year before backtracking.
RealClearPolitics, Reason and the Federalist are also among the websites named.
"One member of GDI's advisory panel, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly, told the Washington Examiner it ‘sounds plausible’ that any website on the ‘riskiest’ list is also on the exclusion list. The member claimed they haven't helped craft the exclusion list and said ‘disinformation’ labeling could potentially be seen as censorship," the Examiner wrote.
The GDI-tied National Endowment for Democracy received over $300 million from the State Department in 2021, according to the report that cited financial records.
"Should the State Department spend public money to help an organization pressure advertisers to punish U.S. media companies? The answer, quite obviously, is no: The First Amendment prohibits the U.S. government from censoring private companies for good reason, and government actors should not seek to evade the First Amendment's protections in order to censor indirectly or exert pressure inappropriately," Reason’s Robby Soave wrote in response to his site's inclusion.
"But GDI's ties to the government extend far beyond the NED," Kaminsky wrote. "GDI has also disclosed taking money from Disinfo Cloud, an unclassified and defunct platform through the State Department's Global Engagement Center. Disinfo Cloud was used between 2018 and 2021 by Congress and over a dozen federal agencies, including the Departments of Defense, Energy, Treasury, and the FBI, according to the State Department."
The GEC aims to counter "propaganda" and "disinformation," according to it’s website.
"If the Department of State, or any other government agency, is giving taxpayer money to shadowy organizations who are putting their thumbs on the scale of who gets heard and who doesn’t, it is a significant First Amendment violation," Dhillon Law Group attorney David Warrington told the Examiner.
"The government is not supposed to be picking winners and losers in the free speech arena, regardless of whether they do it directly or by proxy, as appears to be the case here," he continued.
The State Department didn't respond to a request for comment.