Feds release more records about the Global Disinformation Index, which blacklisted conservative publications

Secretary of State Antony Blinken

The State Department has released its second installment of records about the Global Disinformation Index, a London-based organization funded by the State Department that compiled a blacklist of conservative and non-liberal publications for advertisers to avoid.[¹]

Those records can be viewed at this link. The records describe State Department funding of foreign projects on disinformation, the award of grants to “the Global Disinformation Index (GDI)” and other entities like “the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD),” and legislative developments and controversies related to disinformation. They also include communications with journalists about the Global Disinformation Index and internal discussions about funding of GDI and how to deal with Congress and the press.

At one point, the documents equate “hate speech” with “disinformation,” stating that “As countries increasingly adopt policy measures to counter disinformation, including election cycle-specific initiatives, restrictions on hate speech, interagency task forces, and punitive measures for platforms and users, significant regulatory gaps remain, most notably in demonetizing disinformation (Di).”

Hate speech is often protected by the First Amendment, under court rulings such as R.A.V. v. St. Paul (1992) and Matal v. Tam (2017). Some organizations now define hate speech broadly, and counterintuitively, to include “offensive words, about or directed towards historically victimized groups,” even if the words were not uttered out of hate. The concept of hate speech has expanded to include commonplace views about racial or sexual subjects. That includes criticizing feminism, affirmative action, homosexuality, or gay marriage, opinions about how to address sexual harassment or allegations of racism in the criminal justice system, and taking positions about transgender issues that were consistent with psychiatric treatises.

These broad definitions of hate speech aren’t based on the First Amendment. In the past, the Supreme Court has ruled that there is no “hate speech” exception to the First Amendment, which protects speech that offends minority groups. But foreign countries are banning hate speech on social media, and many legal scholars and civil-rights activists are now calling for America to follow their example and ban hate speech by limiting the First Amendment.

The Global Disinformation Index claimed that the 10 “riskiest” news outlets for disinformation are the New York Post, Reason, the American SpectatorNewsmaxthe Federalist, the American Conservative, One America News, the Blaze, the Daily Wire, and RealClearPolitics. Most of these are conservative publications that criticize the Biden administration, except for Reason, a libertarian magazine that criticizes civil-liberties violations by both Democrats and Republicans (and has won journalism awards for its reporting), and RealClearPolitics, a political news and polling-data aggregator.

By contrast, GDI gave high ratings to left-leaning publications such as HuffPost that frequently make false claims and engage in slanted, sensationalistic coverage. GDI’s co-founder, Clare Melford, wrote for HuffPost in the past. GDI claimed that “HuffPost largely featured fact-based, unbiased content.” It claimed that among the “ten lowest risk online news outlets” were Huffpost, Buzzfeed News, and Insider.

GDI’s explanation for giving conservative and libertarian publications bad ratings did not even suggest that most of them made factually false claims. GDI’s explanation of its negative rating for the New York Post admitted that “GDI’s study did not review specific high-profile stories and attempt to determine whether they were disinformation.”

[Footnote 1] See, e.g., Walter Olson, The U.S. State Department Funds an Ad‐​Blacklisting Group. It Shouldn’t, Cato Institute, Feb. 13, 2013; Gabe Kaminsky, Disinformation Inc: Left-wing groups funneled millions to entity blacklisting conservative news, Washington Examiner, Feb. 15, 2023; Valerie Richardson, Soros-backed ‘disinformation’ group aims to defund conservative news, Washington Times, Feb. 13, 2023.

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