One day before lawmakers on the House Weaponization Committee held their second hearing last week, Colorado Republican Rep. Ken Buck sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken decrying State Department censorship.
In February, the Washington Examiner exposed the Department of State funneling taxpayer money to a shadow network of corporate censors that operate to suppress dissident media. The Global Disinformation Index (GDI), a British group that recommends where advertisers spend their marketing dollars, received $330,000 from the Biden State Department.
GDI’s list of websites says the “riskiest” or “worst” offenders of disinformation include conservative outlets such as the American Spectator, Newsmax, The Federalist, the American Conservative, One America News, the Blaze, Daily Wire, RealClearPolitics, Reason, and the New York Post. Some of the outlets it calls the least risky are those that peddled the Russia-collusion hoax and suppressed both the Hunter Biden laptop story and revelations about the pay-to-play scandal implicating then-candidate Joe Biden right before the 2020 election.
“The GDI has used this funding to create a list of news organizations for advertisers and business interests to abstain from doing business … in an attempt to limit these organizations’ participation in the marketplace of ideas,” Buck wrote on Wednesday. “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.”
On Thursday, the House Select Committee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government convened its second public hearing with a focus on the “Twitter Files.” Independent journalists Matt Taibbi and Michael Shellenberger, two of the primary authors of the Twitter series, explained to lawmakers how the federal government uses major online platforms as conduits to regulate speech through censorship.
“We learned Twitter, Facebook, Google, and other companies developed a formal system for taking in moderation requests from every corner of government, from the FBI, the DHS, the HHS, DOD, the Global Engagement Center at State, even the CIA,” said Taibbi.
“For every government agency scanning Twitter,” Taibbi added, “there were perhaps 20 quasi-private entities doing the same, including Stanford’s Election Integrity Project, NewsGuard, the Global Disinformation Index, and others, many taxpayer-funded.”
GDI and NewsGuard, in particular, were singled out during questions by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.
“What is NewsGuard and how are they part of the censorship industrial complex?” asked Gaetz.
“NewsGuard and the Disinformation Index are both U.S. government-funded entities who are working to drive advertiser revenue away from disfavored publications and towards the ones that they favor,” Shellenberger answered.
NewsGuard is a popular browser extension that ranks the credibility of news organizations. After the hearing, Co-CEO Gordon Crovitz disputed the characterization of NewsGuard as government-funded.
“There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding about NewsGuard and our work,” Crovitz wrote in an email to Taibbi. In September 2021, however, NewsGuard was the recipient of a nearly $750,000 grant from the Department of Defense.
“What you’re describing now,” Gaetz said to Shellenberger in last week’s hearing, “is literally the directing of revenue to certain media companies over other media companies, designed and implemented with U.S. government funding and support.”
“If we do not take a look at NewsGuard, we have failed,” Gaetz said, calling the effort “astonishing.”
Buck agreed with Gaetz in a Saturday interview with The Federalist on the sidelines of the Colorado GOP state convention.
If the Weaponization probe operating under the Judiciary Committee fails to hold hearings on GDI and NewsGuard, Buck said, “then yes, I would think that the committee as a whole would have at least one or two hearings on this.”
“This is government-wide,” added Buck, who anticipates funding for such projects may face cuts in the appropriations process now that Republicans have the majority in the lower chamber. Beyond letters, Buck said lawmakers can “offer amendments to the State Department budget. We can pass resolutions, we can have special orders on the House floor where we raise attention and make sure people understand the significance of the left trying to censor speech on the right.”