GOP Congressman Asks Blinken to Explain US Funding of Conservative Blacklist Group

Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) demanded answers on March 8 from Secretary of State Antony Blinken about U.S. funding for an organization that recommended censoring conservative outlets over claims they spread disinformation.

An article in The Washington Examiner’s opinion section last month reported on the UK-based Global Disinformation Index (GDI), which received hundreds of thousands of U.S. taxpayer funds from the State Department-backed Global Engagement Center and National Endowment for Democracy.

“The GDI has used this funding to create a list of news organizations for advertisers and business interests to abstain from doing business with, in an attempt to limit these organizations’ participation in the marketplace of ideas,” Buck wrote in a letter to Blinken. “Recent reporting suggests that GDI listed several prominent right-leaning news organizations on their ‘blacklist,’ which was sent to advertising firms around the globe.”

News organizations that GDI reportedly has called on advertisers to sever ties with in the name of disinformation include The American Conservative, The American Spectator, The Blaze, The Daily Wire, The Federalist, Newsmax, The New York Post, One America News, RealClearPolitics, and Reason.

“Reports of taxpayer funding for censorship are troubling but unfortunately, no longer isolated,” Buck said.

“According to recent revelations from the Twitter files investigative series, the evidence suggests the [Global Engagement Center] GEC contracted with the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) to provide expertise on combating online disinformation, but instead received lists of ordinary Americans to silence on Twitter,” he continued. “These lists of American citizens marked for censorship bore no resemblance to the paid foreign bots that DFRlab promised to expose.”

Buck suggested that this State Department-backed disinformation effort is antithetical to the U.S. Constitution.

“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,” he wrote.

Buck called on the State Department to stop “all current and future taxpayer funding of the GDI and all other efforts from the State Department to fund “disinformation research” that silences American citizens.”

He also asked for the number of entities the department is “currently funding that implicate the free speech rights of American citizens,” “the total amount of taxpayer funds that have been sent to third-party organizations that implicate the free speech rights of American citizens,” and whether Foggy Bottom “sought or received information on the methodology the GDI and DFRLab used to determine which organizations and individuals to place on their lists.”

The State Department declined to comment on Buck’s letter, saying it does “not comment on communications with Congress.”

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