The Global Disinformation Index (GDI), a British organization funded by the State Department, paid the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) over $90,000 for a report targeting conservative media outlets. The report rates news sites globally based on their disinformation “risk” factor.
GDI has faced intense scrutiny from Republican lawmakers and watchdogs since February when it was reported that the operation involved providing advertisers with conservative website blacklists to suppress disfavored speech.
According to recent contracts, the British disinformation tracker provided $90,810 to the University of Texas’ Global Disinformation Lab for a report to be completed in December 2022. The report labeled the Blaze, New York Post, RealClearPolitics, and other conservative websites as the most dangerous sites.
Rep. Brian Harrison, R-Texas, stated that compromising on the First Amendment should never occur. He is more worried about government officials deciding what is misinformation than the actual spread. He said the University of Texas should not censor free speech or promote liberal ideology using taxpayer money, and the user plans to request clarification.
The payment made by GDI to UT Austin’s state-funded lab, which received training for the project from GDI, was made public on May 25.
The State Department and the National Endowment of Democracy (NED) provided approximately $960,000 in funding to the Global Disinformation Index from 2020 to 2022.
House Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., and other GOP members of Congress launched investigations and demanded records from GDI. As a result, the NED announced that it would stop funding the organization. The State Department has defended its disinformation grants.
The Global Disinformation Lab claims that GDI covered the entire cost of UT’s participation. State funds were not utilized.
But, the previous month, the National Legal and Policy Center filed IRS complaints against two U.S. nonprofit organizations associated with GDI, namely Disinformation Index Inc. and Disinformation Index Foundation. The conservative watchdog claimed that the groups were breaking federal law by withholding information from their financial disclosure forms for 2021.
Paul Kamenar, counsel to the National Legal and Policy Center, stated that the group responsible for censoring conservative media for ‘disinformation’ is hypocritical for concealing their funding sources and redacting their officers’ names from public view.
Protect the Public’s Trust, a watchdog group with right-leaning views, filed a lawsuit against the State Department last month. The group is seeking records related to the department’s previous funding of GDI.