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Republicans take aim at State Department-funded censorship

Government-funded censorship "wastes taxpayer funds and undermines constitutional protections for freedom of speech," Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) wrote in letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Published: March 12, 2023 1:27pm

Updated: November 16, 2023 3:52pm

House Republicans are turning up the pressure on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to answer questions about why U.S. taxpayer dollars went to a British nonprofit that polices what it deems "disinformation" online, with a special target on news outlets that are not left-leaning.

Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) led 11 other members of Congress signing a letter Saturday to Blinken demanding to know why the State Department's Global Engagement Center and the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy sent more than $650,000 to the British Global Disinformation Index in 2021. 

The disinformation group, which is also financially supported by progressive megadonor George Soros, says it gives "risk ratings" to advertisers to "help them avoid financially supporting disinformation online." 

In October 2022, websites the Global Disinformation Index found to be the "least risky" for publishing disinformation included BuzzFeed News, the Washington Post, HuffPost and The New York Times. The websites ranked as the "riskiest" for disinformation were all conservative or centrist, including RealClearPolitics, the Daily Wire, and the New York Post.

The lawmakers also asked Blinken how funding the Global Disinformation Index advanced U.S. national security interests and whether the funding came at the direction of the Biden administration, the Democratic Party or any government official. 

Clyde's letter was also signed by GOP Reps. Paul Gosar of Arizona, Alex Mooney of West Virginia, Dan Bishop of North Carolina, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Bill Posey of Florida, George Santos of New York, Andy Ogles of Tennessee, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Kat Cammack of Florida, Matt Rosendale of Montana and Barry Moore of Alabama.

On Wednesday, Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) sent a letter to Blinken expressing concerns about a possible larger government-funded censorship campaign.

"Paying foreign (and domestic) entities to perform what is essentially censorship is troubling on two fronts: it wastes taxpayer funds and undermines constitutional protections for freedom of speech," Buck wrote.

"How many entities is the State Department currently funding that implicate the free speech rights of American citizens?" Buck asked Blinken, also asking how much money has been spent on such organizations.

The National Endowment for Democracy said last month that it would no longer award grants to the Global Disinformation Index after the foundation discovered the index's involvement in domestic work focusing on U.S. media outlets.

Days after the endowment's announcement, House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) sent a letter to Blinken asking for documents about the government's use of taxpayer funds for what he called a "censorship campaign."

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