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Tags: global disinformation index | university of texas | conservative | blacklist

Report: Disinformation Tracker Paid $90K for Conservative Blacklist

By    |   Thursday, 01 June 2023 05:02 PM EDT

The Global Disinformation Index (GDI), a British-based organization that's funded by the State Department to rate news sites worldwide based on their disinformation "risk" factor, paid the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) more than $90,000 for a report aimed toward conservative media outlets, the Washington Examiner reported on Thursday.

Republican lawmakers and watchdogs have heavily scrutinized GDI since February, following the first of numerous Examiner reports that reported on the organization's covert operation of feeding advertisers conservative website blacklists with the intent of suppressing disfavored speech.

The latest contracts obtained by the Examiner disclosed that the British disinformation tracker steered $90,810 to the University of Texas' Global Disinformation Lab for a December 2022 report. That report identified the New York Post, the Blaze, RealClearPolitics, and other conservative websites as the "riskiest" sites.

"We must never compromise on the First Amendment," Rep. Brian Harrison, R-Texas, told the Examiner. "I am far more concerned about governmental arbiters of 'misinformation' than misinformation itself. Taxpayer-funded academic institutions must not be allowed to help censor free speech or push liberal ideology, and I'll be demanding explanations from the University of Texas."

GDI's payment to UT Austin's state-funded lab, which it also trained for the project, became public May 25, after The Federalist published internal messages from 2022 among concerned university personnel as to how they might fare when GDI was "really going to be hammered" by conservative news outlets.

The Global Disinformation Index was granted an estimated $960,000 between 2020 and 2022 by the State Department and another of its funded nonprofit groups, the National Endowment of Democracy (NED).

After House Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., and other GOP members of Congress announced they were launching investigations and demanding records from GDI, the NED announced that it would cease funding the organization. The State Department, meanwhile, has continued to defend its disinformation grants.

"GDI funded the full cost of UT's involvement," the university's Global Disinformation Lab told the Examiner. "No state money was used."

The Examiner's report Thursday also published a letter of agreement between GDI and UT Austin's disinformation lab manager, Sally Dickerson, stipulating that the project would run from June 13 until Oct. 28, 2022.

The agreement, which noted a minimum of nine people should be employed for the project, stated: "As part of extending the risk ratings to other countries, the GDI seeks a local partner organisation or institution (such as you) to compile a media list — based on the national media market and put together with a local partner/country reviewer — and conduct research on a selection of news domains applying a set of questions and data fields to determine each of the domain's disinformation risk."

A separate budget document obtained by the Examiner showed that in addition to GDI's project costs totaling $90,810, Dickerson received $1,922, while Global Disinformation Lab co-director Kiril Avramov received $974. The remaining bulk of payments went to UT Austin undergraduate and graduate students over a 12-week period. (The students' names were redacted by the university under the Freedom of Information Act.)

"It has long been obvious that the term 'disinformation' is a club used to beat conservative media," said Parker Thayer, an investigative researcher at the Capital Research Center think tank. "State-funded organizations ought to have nothing to do with promoting the claims of 'disinformation' of 'experts,' particularly the Global Disinformation Index, which has a painfully obvious bias against conservatives."

The Examiner's February report on GDI set off concern among lab employees who feared that backlash against the organization could also spark pressure from conservatives against the university. That same month, Microsoft suspended its subscription to GDI pending an internal review, with software company giant Oracle following suit in April, citing "free speech" concerns.

Last month, two GDI-affiliated, U.S. nonprofit groups —the charity Disinformation Index Inc. and the Disinformation Index Foundation — were hit with IRS complaints by the National Legal and Policy Center, a conservative watchdog that asserted the groups were violating federal law by redacting their 2021 financial disclosure forms.

"It is hypocritical that a group whose mission is to censor conservative media for alleged 'disinformation' is itself guilty of hiding its funding sources and redacting the names of its officers from public view," said Paul Kamenar, counsel to the National Legal and Policy Center.

The Examiner reported that right-leaning watchdog Protect the Public's Trust also filed a lawsuit against the State Department last month, looking to uncover records in connection to its prior GDI funding.

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Politics
The Global Disinformation Index (GDI), a British-based organization that's funded by the State Department to rate news sites worldwide based on their disinformation "risk" factor, paid the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) more than $90,000 for a report aimed toward ...
global disinformation index, university of texas, conservative, blacklist
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2023-02-01
Thursday, 01 June 2023 05:02 PM
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