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State Dept. helped fund secret media blacklist by UK organization

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)
February 14, 2023

The State Department awarded funding to a “disinformation” tracking group that is reportedly steering funding away from conservative media through a secretive advertising blacklist.

The Global Disinformation Index, a U.K.-based nonprofit, was one of three winners that split a $250,000 award from the State Department in a disinformation-themed “tech challenge” held in 2021, as reported by the Daily Caller. 

GDI’s main product is a secret list of news outlets considered “high risk for disinformation” that appears to skew toward right-leaning media. The organization gives the so-called “Dynamic Exclusion List” to advertising companies with a goal of “disrupting the ad-funded disinformation business model,” according to its website.

The exclusion list has “had a significant impact” on advertising revenue to sites included on the list, said GDI CEO Clare Melford, according to a podcast transcript.

The list, which contains “the worst offending websites and apps,” is not publicly available. But a selection of what GDI considers the 10 “riskiest sites” released in October includes Reason Magazine, a decades-old publication considered highly factual by Media Bias/Fact Check, and nine other outlets characterized on that website as right-leaning:

  • The New York Post
  • RealClearPolitics
  • The Daily Wire
  • TheBlaze
  • One America News Network
  • The American Conservative
  • The Federalist
  • Newsmax
  • The American Spectator

On the other hand, the “least risky sites” included nine outlets with at least a left-center bias, including the Huffington Post, which is currently considered to be of mixed factual accuracy on Media Bias/Fact Check.

The only non-left-leaning outlet considered “least risky” was the Wall Street Journal, which currently has a right-center bias on Media Bias/Fact Check.

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The executive director of free speech watchdog Foundation for Freedom Online, Mike Benz, told the Washington Examiner that the “whole point” of disinformation tracking groups is to limit “the reach, scalability, market, and even credibility” of conservative media.

It’s unclear exactly how much money the State Department gave GDI, but an even split with two other competitors would total about $83,333. 

The organization said it would use the funds to “expand to the rest of the globe,” starting by giving disinformation ratings to Chinese, Japanese and Korean media outlets.