A Republican lawmaker is demanding answers from Secretary of State Antony Blinken on taxpayer dollars flowing through the State Department to fund “disinformation research” that “silences American citizens.”
Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) penned a letter to Blinken on Wednesday calling public funding of the London-based Global Disinformation Index, which falsely deemed The Post to be one of the “riskiest” outlets for disinformation, “troubling,” and he demanded that the State Department “cease all current and future” attempts at providing taxpayer money to pro-censorship groups.
“Taxpayers employ the State Department and all its officials to promote their interests and protect the Constitution. Paying foreign (and domestic) entities to perform what is essentially censorship is troubling on two fronts: it wastes taxpayer funds and undermines constitutional protections for freedom of speech,” Buck argues in the letter.
The GDI purports to provide “neutral, independent, transparent” insight into “a website’s risk of disinforming readers.”
It reportedly secured $100,000 from the State Department’s Global Engagement Center and $545,000 from the government-funded National Endowment for Democracy before creating a December blacklist of 10 outlets, including The Post.
The blacklist, sent to advertising firms around the world, is aimed at keeping advertisers from doing business with these news organizations, all right-leaning or libertarian-leaning outlets.
“Reports of taxpayer funding for censorship are troubling but unfortunately, no longer isolated,” Buck writes, citing revelations from the “Twitter Files” investigative reports that showed the State Department’s Global Engagement Center contracted with the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab to provide expertise on combating online disinformation but instead of receiving lists of paid foreign bots, the government agency received lists of US citizens “marked for censorship.”
In his letter, Buck asks Blinken to provide the number of entities that the State Department is currently funding that “implicate the free speech rights of American citizens,” the total amount of taxpayer money sent to groups that “implicate the free speech rights of American citizens” and if the State Department looked at the methodology the GDI and DFRLab used to create its blacklist.
The GDI accused The Post of being “high-risk” because of an alleged “lack of transparency around operational policies and practices.”
“The site published no public guidelines for the use of bylines on its content, the types and number of sources its content relies on, or pre-publication fact-checking and post-publication corrections processes. As a result, even if relevant policies exist, they cannot be factored into the site’s risk score,” the index claimed.
But The Post publishes bylines on news stories, cites by name or transparently describes sources and publishes corrections when errors are reported, as is common practice for major news organizations.
A spokeswoman for the National Endowment for Democracy told The Post earlier this week that it won’t provide additional funding for the GDI and that “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 State Department also told The Post that its work with the GDI is “closed” and “no further work is planned.”