US Government Funds Group Seeking to Blacklist Conservative Media

US Government Funds Group Seeking to Blacklist Conservative Media
The U.S. State Department in Washington on Sept. 12, 2012. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Zachary Stieber
Updated:

U.S. taxpayer funds have been funneled to a British group that wants to block money from conservative media outlets.

State Department-backed entities have funded the London-based Global Disinformation Index (GDI) with the aim of “defunding disinformation.”

The National Endowment for Democracy, a nonprofit that is primarily funded by the government, passed on $230,000 in 2020 to the AN Foundation, according to the nonprofit’s website.

The AN Foundation is the U.S. arm of the GDI, the Washington Examiner reported.

According to the endowment, the grant would help the foundation “work with local partners in Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean to research and assess disinformation risks of local online media ecosystems, using artificial intelligence as well as expert review.”

“The resulting risk ratings will be used to raise awareness among advertising companies and trade bodies of the risks that arise from funding disinformation. Partners will also use the data to positively shape and drive national policy debates on trust in media and on combatting disinformation,” the listing stated.

Leslie Aun, a spokeswoman for the foundation, told the Daily Signal that the grant was not meant for U.S. projects.

“We are not supporting any projects in the U.S. or funding GDI’s work regarding U.S. media,” Aun said. “Our grant was for targeting disinformation used by China, Russia, Iran, and other authoritarian regimes.”

State Department funds also went, starting in 2018, to an organization called Park Advisers to research, develop, and manage the Disinfo Cloud, the department told The Epoch Times in an email.

The cloud offered a “one-stop shop” for entities to “identify and then test tools that counter propaganda and disinformation,” according to a flyer the agency distributed.

Park Advisers described the cloud as “an open source platform to provide the U.S. government and its partners with a database of the tools and technologies available to help push back against foreign propaganda and disinformation” and “a venue for innovative companies to engage with governments, academia, and civil society to find solutions to disinformation.”

The cloud (which is now defunct), Park Advisers, and the U.S. government were listed as collaborating organizations for the 2021 U.S.-Paris Tech Challenge, where the State Department announced an award of $250,000 for three groups, including the GDI.

“The Global Disinformation Index adopts a proactive approach to countering disinformation by addressing the financial motivations behind disinformation. They’re armed to stem the flow of online disinformation by removing economic support and incentives for specific malign anchors,” Patricia Watts, a State Department official, said during the event. “By working with private sector partners to undercut the business model power and disinformation, this solution can determine malign actors and limit their research,” she added.

Assessments

Among other efforts, GDI produces reports that assess how risky it is for advertisers to advertise on the websites of news outlets.
In one of its recent reports, all of the outlets that were labeled the riskiest, lean right or are openly conservative, including the Examiner, the New York Post, and the Daily Wire.

The 10 outlets labeled the least riskiest, meanwhile, lean left or are openly liberal, such as the Huffington Post, NPR, and the Washington Post.

A broader GDI list is used by advertising companies like Microsoft-owned Xandr, the Examiner reported. Clare Melford, GDI’s CEO, said on a podcast in 2022 that the list “had a significant impact on the advertising revenue that has gone to those sites.”

Lawmakers said the government funding for the efforts to block money from conservative sites was concerning.

“This is another example of the government weaponizing resources against conservatives,” Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) said in a statement.

Some officials have said they will investigate the issue.

Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), told the Examiner that the House Oversight Committee, which he chairs, “will press the Biden administration for answers about this attack on the First Amendment.”
GDI did not respond to a request for comment.

Global Engagement Center

The State Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC), which was behind the tech challenge award, was also one of the agencies that engaged with Big Tech on content moderation, according to depositions and materials, made public in a lawsuit brought against the Biden administration by several states, and internal Twitter files.

The center, established in 2011, was known as the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications in its early years.

The center has a mission of “counter[ing] foreign propaganda and disinformation.”

Daniel Kimmage, the principal deputy coordinator of the center, said in a recent deposition that the center focuses on foreign disinformation.

“We do not target American audiences,” Kimmage said. “The GEC’s concern is with the actions of foreign propaganda actors. The GEC’s concern stops there. It doesn’t extend to the speech of Americans.”

He also claimed that the center only provided Big Tech companies with information and did not pressure them to take action, including action against the spread of purported disinformation.

The center “equips people, it equips, potentially, technology companies to better understand it so that they can take whatever actions they would take to stop the spread [of disinformation],” Kimmage said.

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