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OPINION

National Science Foundation Grants Are Subverting the Integrity of Journalism and Election Offices

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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Brennan Linsley

The “Convergence Accelerator” program, not to be perhaps confused with an atomic particle accelerator at a physics research lab, is part of a multi-faceted government program under the auspices of the taxpayer-funded National Science Foundation (NSF) to equip individuals to “identify [and] correct misinformation.” 

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The NSF was established in 1950 “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; [and] to secure the national defense...” Not surprisingly, the projects it now funds (with an annual budget of nearly $9 billion) have crept far beyond its original high-sounding mission, to now include what has become one of Uncle Sam’s top priorities: countering “misinformation.”

“Misinformation,” defined as the “inadvertent spread of false information,” has proved an elusive target for the feds. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) earlier this year actually created an office – the Disinformation Governance Board -- to zero in on the threat, but was pressured just months later to jettison the idea in the face of extensive public pushback. With that setback, other, less visible parts of the government have stepped into the breach. Enter the NSF.

A query of NSF’s website for grants awarded for “misinformation” reveals dozens of recent and ongoing taxpayer-funded projects on the topic, directed to numerous colleges and universities and ranging in amounts from a few hundred thousand dollars to the University of Georgia in April 2022, to a massive $5 million grant to the University of Wisconsin on September 15th of this year.

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This $5 million grant is particularly problematic, if by “problematic” one considers a federal government agency using taxpayer dollars to equip “journalists” and others with tools to identify and neutralize what the administration considers “misinformation.”  The “Abstract” for this “Convergence Accelerator Track F” is surprisingly transparent in its design and goal:

“This project .  .  .  will help end users such as journalists to (1) identify trending misinformation networks on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok, [and] (2) strategically correct misinformation within the flow of where it is most prevalent online .  .  .”

Furthermore, the project will “partner” with domestic and “international news and fact-checking organizations” (such as the World Health Organization, which is itself engaged in a major project “immunizing the public against misinformation”). It will engage in “ongoing collaboration with journalists” and others in developing digital dashboards to be employed by “end users” such as “election administration officials and commercial outlets” (my emphasis).

This sinister NSF project, and others under its “misinformation” umbrella, fits within the overarching effort by the Biden Administration to undercut and neutralize conservative information sites including The Daily Wire, Epoch Times, and The Federalist, all of which (and others) already are considered “unreliable” purveyors of misinformation; as opposed to what Washington considers “reliable” outlets such as The New York Times and The Washington Post.

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This nefarious effort against what the Administration considers inherently dangerous “misinformation,” also fits nicely into what President Biden identified in a presidential “Fact Sheet” on June 15, 2021 as a new “National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism.” In that document, “misinformation” is conflated with “domestic terrorism” and therefore justifiably targeted by the feds (using taxpayer money, of course). 

Attacking the DHS-created Disinformation Governance Board earlier this year was made easier by virtue of the publicity with which the Department announced its launch and the ill-qualified individual chosen to lead it. 

Hiding this maleficent effort behind the veil of “science” and using the cover of the NSF to carry its water, makes it far more difficult for critics to attack what they correctly see as a very real plan to subvert the independence and objectivity of journalism and the American electoral system. 

This makes it even more critical that the incoming Republican majority in the House of Representatives use its oversight and appropriations power to highlight and put a stop to this dangerous and underhanded strategy when the 118th Congress convenes on January 3, 2023.

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Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.

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