State Department Helped Fund ‘Disinformation’ Research Group That Reportedly Blacklists Conservative News Sites
The U.S. State Department, through its Global Engagement Center (GEC), helped facilitate funding for a group that reportedly works to demonetize sites it claims are disseminating “disinformation,” including conservative news outlets, according to its website.
The Global Disinformation Index (GDI), a United Kingdom-based nonprofit that styles itself as a “non-political” monitor working to “disrupt the business model of disinformation,” lists as a funder the Disinfo Cloud, a now-shuttered GEC project. However, GDI has worked to demonetize conservative news sites by collaborating with ad exchanges to flag alleged purveyors of disinformation, the Washington Examiner reported Thursday.
GDI maintains a “dynamic exclusion list” of the worst offenders of disinformation online, according to its website. The organization then provides this list to ad tech companies, which can then “defund and downrank these worst offenders” and thereby defund sites allegedly promoting disinformation.
While the exclusion list isn’t publicly available, popular conservative news site Breitbart is on the list, according to the Examiner, and it is “plausible” that any of the “riskiest” outlets would also be on the exclusion list, according to a member of the GDI advisory panel who spoke to the Examiner.
In this list of news outlets that were deemed the “riskiest” for alleged promotion of disinformation, GDI identified several prominent conservative news sites including the New York Post and the Daily Wire. By comparison, the “least risky” sites were overwhelmingly left-wing.
Moreover, GDI flagged the Examiner itself as disseminating “anti-LGBTQ+” disinformation, according to an October 2022 GDI memo, and pointed to an Amazon ad displayed on the Examiner page. The “anti-LGBTQ+” content in question was found in an opinion article.
In September 2021, the State Department’s GEC hosted the U.S.-Paris Tech Challenge, an event seeking to “advance the development of promising and innovative technologies against disinformation and propaganda” in Europe and the U.K. The event was held in “collaboration with U.S. Embassy Paris, the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab), the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)” and several other entities.
GDI, along with the U.K.-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), were two of the three winners; ISD also works to monitor and combat perceived misinformation and disinformation, and lists as government partners the U.S. State Department and U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The three winners will receive grants totaling $250,000, according to the Atlantic Council, which partnered with the State Department to arrange the event.
GDI also lists among its funders George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, Pierre Omidyar’s Luminate and Craig Newmark Philanthropies.
The Global Disinformation Index and the State Department did not respond to the DCNF’s requests for comment.
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