Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
A little-known organization that purports to fight disinformation by disrupting ad-revenue streams to the sites that allegedly promote lies and misinformation has lost its federal grant money after it was revealed the group has engaged in a take-down attempt against various conservative news sites.
Gabe Kaminsky of the Washington Examiner, as part of a much larger series of investigative pieces, reports that the Global Disinformation Initiative (GDI), which is funded in part by the State Department-backed National Endowment for Democracy (NED), had created blacklists of conservative American news sites and sought to encourage advertisers to spend their money elsewhere.
The problem for GDI is that the NED does not, or at least is not supposed to, fund programs that meddle in domestic affairs. As such, NED has, according to the latest report from Kaminsky, ended its relationship with GDI.
“As set forth in our Articles of Incorporation and the NED Act, our mandate is to work around the world and not in the United States,” the Examiner quoted NED vice president of communications Leslie Aun as saying. “We have strict policies and practices in place so that NED and the work we fund remains internationally focused, ensuring the Endowment does not become involved in domestic politics.”
The NED contends that GDI did, in fact, engage in a domestic program, but that the funding for this program was through a third party and not grant money awarded by NED.
“Recently, we became aware that one of our grantees, the Global Disinformation Index (GDI), was engaged in an initiative, funded by a different donor, that focused on specific U.S. media outlets,” Aum said. “We recognize the important work GDI has done with NED support in other countries to help preserve the integrity of the information space and counter authoritarian influence. However, given our commitment to avoid the perception that NED is engaged in any work domestically, directly or indirectly, we will no longer provide financial support to GDI.”
NED’s words have done little to assuage the anger of GOP lawmakers, who have spent the better part of the month demanding answers.
“The First Amendment is unequivocally the MOST important constitutional right granted to us by our founding fathers,” Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-N.J.) tweeted last week. “The federal government’s collusion with Big Tech is a blatant violation of Americans’ freedom of speech, and House Republicans will hold them accountable.”
The First Amendment is unequivocally the MOST important constitutional right granted to us by our founding fathers.
The federal government's collusion with Big Tech is a blatant violation of Americans' freedom of speech, and House Republicans will hold them accountable.
— Congressman Jeff Van Drew (@Congressman_JVD) February 17, 2023
GDI’s website describes the group’s mission as one rooted in making disinformation less profitable, specifically through rating various sites as more or less risky for advertisers.
“Brands unwittingly provide an estimated quarter of a billion dollars annually to disinformation websites through online advertisements placed on them,” the GDI mission statement reads. “GDI uses both human and artificial intelligence to assess disinformation risk across the open web. We then provide these risk ratings to brands and advertising technology partners, providing them with a trusted and neutral source of data with which to direct their advertising spend.”
Republicans, though, say that GDI is far from neutral.
According to the Washington Examiner, GDI lists the riskiest news sites in the U.S. as American Spectator, Newsmax, the Federalist, the American Conservative, One America News, the Blaze, the Daily Wire, RealClearPolitics, Reason, and the New York Post.
In a feat that is statistically unlikely for a “neutral” party, GDI managed to calculate that only conservative sites ranked among the top 10 riskiest sites in the nation.
“It ought to scare everybody in this country, regardless of whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, that the government is that involved in censoring speech,” Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.) told the Washington Examiner in a different story about the GDI scandal. “The unholy alliance between government and Big Tech must be dismantled.”
The Washington Examiner reports that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) has promised to bring the GDI matter before the newly formed House Select Committee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.