PPT Investigates Feds Funneling Taxpayer Dollars to Organizations Targeting Americans’ Speech

PPT Investigates Feds Funneling Taxpayer Dollars to Organizations Targeting Americans’ Speech

  • February 22, 2023
Foreign groups received hundreds of thousands from US government

Today, Protect the Public’s Trust announced another prong of its investigation of the federal government’s involvement in online censorship. Federal agencies are funding foreign organizations that reportedly secretly blacklist and defund conservative media outlets. This appears to be yet another pernicious aspect of the ever-growing censorship industry unwittingly funded by American taxpayers.

Major advertising companies often employ ‘disinformation consultants’ to assist clients in selecting outlets in which to place ads and identifying which outlets to avoid. According to media reports, certain of these consultants, which are gaining tremendous power and influence, create exclusion lists of media for their clients to shun. These consultants are thus able to steer their clients to spend their ad dollars at certain outlets, while starving ad revenue from those they disfavor, decisions which can be based upon political ideology.

Recent accounts in the Washington Examiner indicate that a British organization called the Global Disinformation Index (GDI) is among the entities involved in this new censorship effort. Daniel Rogers, executive Director of GDI, is on the record supporting efforts to censor free speech, stating it fuels “violent extremism and public health crises.” GDI’s “dynamic exclusion list,” which purports to evaluate outlets based on their risk of reporting “disinformation,” serves as a guide to lead clients away from what GDI considers risky outlets. A recent investigation revealed that all the outlets GDI labeled most risky lean right, while all those rated least risky are left-leaning.

While private organizations are generally not subject to the First Amendment, federal agencies are prohibited from engaging in efforts to censor or suppress free speech. Despite its apparent role in disfavoring media based upon political leanings, GDI has been the recipient of hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants from State Department entities, including the Global Engagement Center (GEC), and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), “an independent, nonprofit foundation” that is “funded largely by the U.S. Congress.” NED recently announced it “will no longer provide financial support to GDI.”

In light of these events, PPT sent a series of FOIA requests to multiple agencies for information outlining government ties with GDI and other groups receiving federal funding that are reportedly engaged in online censorship. These requests are the latest of more than two dozen PPT has sent to federal agencies – including the State Department, Department of Health and Human Services, and Department of Homeland Security – seeking to uncover the federal government’s role in the burgeoning censorship industry.

“The last thing the American public should expect is that their taxes would end up in the hands of those who would trample their rights,” Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust, said. “Yet the State Department, which exists to represent Americans’ interests abroad, and other government agencies have been handing out money to organizations that have apparently been targeting American media outlets based upon their political views. Though the agencies can deny they are funding this activity, money is fungible, and these organizations can claim the government’s stamp of approval for their operations. This represents yet another putrid layer of the vast censorship apparatus.”