Senate Passes Law Authorizing Feds To Spend Up To $20 Million Supporting ‘Independent’ Journalists

REUTERS/Mike Blake

Alex Pfeiffer White House Correspondent
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A law passed by the Senate Thursday authorizes the Department of State to spend up to $20 million on media outlets to “refute foreign disinformation.”

Republican Ohio Sen. Rob Portman and Democratic Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy introduced the Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act in March and it was passed by the Senate as part of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.

“The passage of this bill in the Senate today takes us one critical step closer to effectively confronting the extensive, and destabilizing, foreign propaganda and disinformation operations being waged against us,” Sen. Portman said in a statement. Sen.Murphy added, “Congress has taken a big step in fighting back against fake news and propaganda from countries like Russia.”

The act pushed by Portman and Murphy would create a Center for Information Analysis and Response. This center would would work to “track and evaluate counterfactual narratives abroad that threaten the national security interests of the United States and United States allies,” analyze these findings, then develop and disseminate “fact-based narratives and analysis to counter propaganda,” among other actions to combat foreign propaganda efforts. (RELATED: Obama Orders Review Of Russian Involvement In Election)

This act authorizes the Department of State to spend $20 million through September 30, 2018 to “support the Center and provide grants or contracts of financial support to civil society groups, journalists, nongovernmental organizations, federally funded research and development centers, private companies, or academic institutions.” (RELATED: Trump Team: Same People Who Say Russia Meddled In Election Said Iraq Had WMDs)

Possibly under the role of disseminating “fact-based narratives,” part of this funding would go to supporting “local independent media who are best placed to refute foreign disinformation and manipulation in their own communities.”

Portman’s office press release said the legislation is “designed to help American allies.” The bill, though, does specifically say the spending has to be on foreign media outlets and adds that it would work to “promote a free, healthy, and independent press in countries vulnerable to foreign disinformation.”

Portman and Murphy have both said the United States is vulnerable to foreign disinformation.