House Republicans are taking aim at the Pentagon’s censorship regime in the latest version of the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
In June, Rep. Richard McCormick, R-Ga., attached an amendment to the annual defense bill to strip the department of its ability to engage in censorship or the blacklisting of news sources. Under the amendment, the Defense Department would be prohibited from signing new contracts with a constellation of censorship organizations known to blacklist conservative news. Groups explicitly listed include NewsGuard, the Global Disinformation Index (GDI), Graphika Technologies, or “any other entity the function of which is to advise the censorship or blacklisting of news sources based on subjective criteria or political biases, under the stated function of ‘fact checking’ or otherwise removing ‘misinformation.'”
Censors such as GDI and NewsGuard have attempted to impose a censorship regime that penalizes conservative outlets on behalf of the federal government. GDI is a British group that compiles secretive lists of news organizations the group encourages major corporations to boycott. Clients include advertisers who are looking to plug their products online and consult with such “disinformation” groups for advice on which websites to hire.
The index was exposed in February for keeping a list of blacklisted websites that include The Federalist, The American Spectator, Newsmax, The American Conservative, One America News, The Blaze, The Daily Wire, RealClearPolitics, Reason, and the New York Post. GDI’s partners have included the U.S. State Department and previously the National Endowment for Democracy, the latter of which is almost entirely funded by the former. According to Washington Examiner Investigative Reporter Gabe Kaminsky, GDI raked in “roughly $960,000 combined from 2020 to 2022.”
NewsGuard is another censorship group subsidized by federal tax dollars that aims to discredit websites critical of establishment-approved narratives. While GDI works with advertisers to recommend where to spend marketing budgets, NewsGuard is a browser extension that rates the credibility of news organizations. The software, which is being deployed in schools nationwide, downgrades conservative websites while offering perfect scores to legacy outlets that botched the Hunter Biden laptop story and peddled the Russia-collusion hoax. In September 2021, NewsGuard was the recipient of a nearly $750,000 contract from the Department of Defense.
In March, The Federalist’s Senior Legal Correspondent Margot Cleveland outlined how the Defense Department’s censorship regime goes far deeper than contracting with NewsGuard.
“NewsGuard is not the only for-profit business the U.S. government is leveraging for its technology and databases about supposed misinformation and disinformation,” Cleveland reported. “California-based PeakMetrics joined NewsGuard as one of the three winners of the 2020 Pentagon-State Department misinformation and disinformation contest, winning its own $25,000 pilot study to develop its ‘social listening’ technology with DOD aid.”
“These agencies are steering away from conservative stations where they’re most likely to find their recruits,” McCormick said in an interview with The Federalist.
Only two out of five military service branches, the Marine Corps and Space Force, met their recruitment goals for the fiscal year 2023. The Army, Air Force, and Navy each missed.
“If you’re looking for good bang for your buck, which is ultimately what advertisers should be focused on,” McCormick said, “it should be on conservative venues.”