The Free Speech Battle Continues with Disinformation Inc. Lawsuit
- May 8, 2023
State Department claims it can’t complete request for records on possible censorship ties until after next Presidential election
Today, Protect the Public’s Trust announced a transparency lawsuit against the Department of State regarding several Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests seeking information related to the U.S. government bankrolling a “disinformation” tracking group that has been accused of blacklisting conservative news websites. State claimed that it would not be able to complete the requests until well after the next Presidential election.
PPT’s FOIA, based upon information uncovered by the Washington Examiner’s Disinformation Inc. series, sought records about government ties to groups like the Global Disinformation Index (GDI), a British nonprofit that media reports indicate “is feeding blacklists to ad companies with the intent of defunding and shutting down websites” GDI alleges peddle “disinformation.” Reportedly, companies like GDI employ “disinformation consultants” to assist clients in selecting outlets in which to place ads and identifying outlets to avoid. A recent investigation by the Washington Examiner revealed that all the outlets GDI deemed “riskiest” leaned right.
Groups like GDI have been awarded hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars from State Department agencies like the Global Engagement Center (GEC). Between 2020 and 2021, the GEC, as well as the State Department-backed National Endowment for Democracy, granted a combined $665,000 to the Global Disinformation Index.
The connection between the State Department and groups that are accused of suppressing dissenting views has sparked serious concerns that these agencies are engaging in political censorship. And the department’s behavior since receiving PPT’s FOIA request does not reassure. Timely disclosure of records is essential to the core purpose of FOIA, but the department informed PPT that no records would be released until August 2025, well after the next presidential election.
“The involvement of federal agencies in supporting organizations that may be engaged in stifling the speech of American citizens is beyond disturbing,” Michael Chamberlain, PPT’s Director said. “This goes to the principles at the very foundation of our nation. The public deserves to know the level to which these agencies are supporting activities or organizations that could be violating Americans’ rights. State’s response to our requests is certainly not consistent with that of an administration pledging to be the most transparent in history.”