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OPINION

Peeling Back the Curtain on 'Big Censorship' and the Money Behind Silencing Conservative Outlets

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Late last week, a piece from the Washington Examiner's Gabe Kaminsky revealed how a British disinformation organization called the Global Disinformation Index has been issuing a "blacklist" to advertising firms and affiliated companies that warned against placing ads on sites it deems dangerous. All you need to know about the slanted, targeted nature of this effort is displayed on the list that only featured outlets that are right-of-center. The Townhall Media outlets were listed among dozens of others.

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Kaminsky noted that one advertising firm subscribing to this list was Xander, an advertising company that Microsoft purchased less than two years ago. This is a sizeable firm, considering the $1 billion price tag, and to see a company of this size joining in with the targeted effort is just the start of the trouble that exists.

As a sign that it had been exposed, in the past few days, Microsoft has come out with public comments, disavowing the GDI and suspending its relationship with the group, as well as scrubbing the use of warnings placed on the listed websites. This is a dubious action, as you have to question just how naive a corporation of this size would be for it to be using this blacklisting process unknowingly. And clearly, they knew. As Kaminsky writes, the company announced last Fall, "'Xandr is adopting GDI's exclusion list,' a senior Xandr employee wrote to ad groups in 2022, according to emails newly obtained by the Washington Examiner."

More importantly, there is a cabal of these censoring groups operating, all with the intent of silencing disapproved speech and social media content deemed inappropriate, and the money behind these groups is immense. The GDI, though a British outfit, has affiliates operating in the U.S., but there is a more disturbing detail. This organization has been receiving large sums of operating capital from our own government.

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In two grants the organization received, the non-profit Global Disinformation Index pocketed $100,000 from the State Department division of the Global Engagement Center to combat propaganda. GDI also won a grant of $250,000 from The National Endowment for Democracy, emanating from Congress. This means our federal government has been funding the efforts to silence or starve right-leaning outlets in the media complex.

GDI is also backed financially by the one name-that-should-never-be-criticized. Unsurprisingly, George Soros has his tentacles in this group. Three members of the GDI panel are from different Soros-backed media watchdog groups, including The Poynter Institute. (Of course, the mere mention of Soros could bring the familiar defense that this is simply anti-Semitism, a charge easily swept aside by the fact this is noting the actions of one man, not a claim the advertising industry is being controlled by a faction of people.)

Newsguard is a perpetually problematic disinformation arbiter, where it claims to affix "nutrition labels" to outlets based on its own assessment of reliability. There are many examples of this source being patently biased. One example is that after USA Today was found to have fired a reporter for plagiarizing numerous articles, which were taken down, they still maintained their perfect 100% rating. Perhaps no better example of the skewed measurements is that it grants Chinese Communist Party propaganda sources significantly higher ratings than American conservative outlets.

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So as Newsguard has displayed a patently slanted approach to measuring, it also works in partnership with Microsoft. This would indicate a tendency by that corporation to lean into the very targeted activities it claimed to happen without knowledge.

Recall it was last April when the Biden administration kicked off its Disinformation Governance Board, headed by the flaky Nina Jankowicz, which was essentially going to be Biden's Ministry of Information. As troubling as this sounded, it was also comically inept in that this new division was disbanded in about a month, unable to combat what was described as a misinformation campaign about its operations.

But Biden wasted no time establishing a new disinfo board, albeit in a more quiet fashion. In June, the administration established a new task force headed by Kamala Harris. This involves Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Attorney General Merrick Garland and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. But this is merely an extension of ongoing efforts from the left.

In 2020, just ahead of that year's general election, there was the formation of the Election Integrity Partnership, a consortium of various university entities charged with policing what was deemed misinformation online. This outfit works closely with journalists on the misinformation beat and also has a system of filing complaints about online problematics with posts and narratives. These accepted complaints are lodged by government agencies (!) but also a collection of outside groups from the same side of the political aisle; the NAACP, Common Cause, and even the DNC. Not too many conservative groups are found anywhere.

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The EIP has profited well following the election. Millions of dollars were doled out to each of the various entities behind the group from the Biden administration in a calm payola-like fashion. Another college receiving federal largesse to fight misinformation was the University of Wisconsin. Its project, "Course Correct: Precision Guidance Against Misinformation" was awarded a $5 million federal grant from the National Science Foundation. It is meant to create "a flexible and dynamic digital dashboard that will help end users such as journalists to (1) identify trending misinformation networks on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok, (2) strategically correct misinformation within the flow of where it is most prevalent online and (3) test the effectiveness of corrections in real time."

Then in December, more federal money was poured out for censoring intents. The NSF again cut checks for $5 million for the group called Hacks/Hackers to develop a software to aid in combating what some call misinformation. The grant is to be used for "development of the Analysis and Response Toolkit for Trust (ARTT), a suite of expert-informed resources that are intended to provide guidance and encouragement to individuals and communities as they address contentious or difficult topics online."

There is big money to be made in the industry of shutting down speech. What is more troubling is how this all seems to trend in one direction, being made in an effort to truncate speech from one side. What is most troubling is that it is our government funding these efforts. There is a lot to be gained if you do the bidding of the government that is cutting those checks. 

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