House Committee Passes Rule Banning Pentagon From Funding ‘Censorship’ Orgs

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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The House included a rule banning the Pentagon from contracting with organizations seeking to rate or police news sites, including groups accused of unfairly targeting conservatives, in the annual defense bill passed at committee level early Thursday morning.

The rule singles out the Global Disinformation Index (GDI), Graphika, NewsGuard and related organizations that target perceived online disinformation and rate news sources based on accuracy and transparency. United Kingdom-based GDI worked for the State Department while pushing to demonetize and deplatform conservative websites on various tech and social media platforms, raising concerns among activists and lawmakers that many so-called “fact checking” organizations may be biased in their judgements against right-leaning content.

“Proud to pass my amendment that prohibits the Department of Defense from contracting with any one of a number of “misinformation” or “disinformation” monitors that rate news and information sources,” Republican Rep. Rich McCormick of Georgia, who sponsored the amendment, said in a statement. “While these media monitors claim to be nonpartisan, the reality is they are not.” (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: DHS Panel Courted Left-Wing Agents To Aid In ‘Misinformation’ Crackdown)

The amendment, adopted as part of the House Armed Services Committee’s 2024 National Defense Authorization Act passed early Thursday morning, blocks Pentagon funds from going to the Global Disinformation Index, Graphika, NewsGuard or “any other entity the function of which is to advise the censorship or blacklisting of news sources based on subjective criteria or political biases, under the stated function of ‘fact checking’ or otherwise removing ‘misinformation’” from the internet.

Advertising and marketing agencies the Department of Defense (DOD) employs to reach new recruits would have to certify they do not use any services from organizations, according to the text of the amendment.

DOD offered NewsGuard Technologies a contract in 2021 worth $749,387 for services relating to “misinformation fingerprints,” records show. U.S. Cyber Command and the State Department jointly ran a program for “detecting COVID-19 misinformation and disinformation” using NewsGuard’s “Misinformation Fingerprints” tool, which leveraged artificial intelligence to track prominent misinformation narratives online and “offer solutions to hoaxes related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a news release.

“NewsGuard has provided the Department of Defense with alerts and analysis about new false narratives being spread by hostile foreign governments, including China, Russia and Iran, targeting Americans and our allies with false claims,” a spokesperson for the company told the DCNF. The spokesperson cited an example where NewsGuard identified a Beijing-backed website disseminating a false claim about a U.S. scheme to develop bioweapons and deploy them in China.

“We operate in an objective manner, including how we identify provably false claims and how we rate news sources by using fully transparent and apolitical criteria,” the spokesperson added.

The Institution for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) also received $80,000 in 2023 for “prevention,” although specifics of the program were not immediately available, records show. ISD is a U.K.-based nonprofit organization that partners with social media platforms to identify and combat what it calls online hate, extremism and disinformation.

However, it frequently labels mainstream conservative speech as hate or disinformation, evaluating content against narrowly-defined liberal perspectives on issues like abortion, climate change, transgenderism and Critical Race Theory, the Daily Caller News Foundation previously found. ISD has an active contract with the State Department to “advance the development of promising and innovative technologies against disinformation and propaganda.”

Wittman’s amendment blocks additional contracts in that vein.

The DCNF did not identify any current or inactive DOD contracts with GDI or Graphika, a company that monitors disinformation campaigns on social media and exposed a U.S. Central Command operation promoting pro-U.S. content on Twitter and Facebook.

ISD, NewsGuard, GDI and Graphika did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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