Democratic Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy lauded the work of the Global Engagement Center (GEC) Wednesday during a Senate hearing despite evidence the office has worked to aid in the censorship of Americans online.
Murphy questioned Secretary of State Antony Blinken about the Biden administration’s proposed annual budget for the State Department, which includes the GEC. The senator claimed that the GEC plays a key role in combatting alleged disinformation from places like Russia.
Sen. Chris Murphy sings the praises of the GEC, the State Department office that was flagging (accurate) tweets about COVID origins for censorship by Twitter @DailyCaller pic.twitter.com/aDzsv4ed4d
— Dylan Housman (@Dylan_Housman) March 22, 2023
“I appreciate the fact that we have continued to scale up the size of the Global Engagement Center and that your budget requests another double-digit percentage increase,” Murphy said. “I’m of the belief that the GEC needs to take a primary rather than secondary role when it comes to the way in which we counter misinformation around the world.”
“What concerns me more is that we have ahead of us the reauthorization of the GEC, we’ve gotta put it back on the books, and there is really no way to combat Russian misinformation, their propaganda efforts which are integral to their campaign against Ukraine, or China’s efforts to expand its reach, without the GEC,” Murphy continued.
Multiple reports of the Twitter Files by journalist Matt Taibbi in recent months revealed that the GEC, a small and relatively unknown office within the State Department, had engaged in efforts to flag social media posts for Big Tech companies that it considered to be “misinformation” coming from foreign sources.
In many cases, the posts that were being flagged ended up being factually accurate. In others, the posters were ordinary American citizens with no connection to some sort of foreign disinformation network. (RELATED: ‘They Have To Do It To Their Own Population’: Former Top Obama Official Said He Was Called ‘Chief Propagandist’)
The GEC specifically targeted posts about the lab leak theory of COVID-19 origin, which it falsely alleged was part of a foreign disinformation campaign. When pressed on whether the State Department still considers the lab leak theory to be disinformation, former Spokesperson Ned Price did not give a direct answer.
Blinken touted the importance of renewing the authorization of the GEC, stating that there are competitors and malign actors using disinformation against the interests of the United States “every second of the day.”
Other Democrats have defended the work of the GEC in recent months or attacked Taibbi for reporting on social media censorship. Earlier this month, Taibbi testified before Congress where Democrats accused him of using “cherry-picked” information and pressured him to reveal sources. Ohio Sen. Rob Portman has also been a champion of the GEC, and numerous Democrats falsely claimed Russian bots were amplifying information about Hunter Biden despite Twitter telling them there was no evidence.