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HHS is Still Wasting Money Fighting Online Covid “Disinformation”

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Apparently, Covid discussions are still a thing worth cracking down on. That’s at least according to The Biden administration, which is injecting $500,000 into Texas Woman’s University as part of a grant program aimed at curbing COVID-19 “misinformation” and “disinformation” allegedly aimed at Hispanics, according to funding records reviewed by the Washington Examiner. The grant aims “to expand research on mitigating the effect of misinformation and disinformation” regarding “COVID-19 prevention and treatment initiatives among Hispanics.”

Timeline: Kicking off on May 10 and set to wrap up in April 2024, this grant is part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)’s Food and Drug Administration’s portfolio. It’s part of Biden’s broader push to censor alleged disinformation by joining forces with social media platforms on content moderation – a move likened to “censorship” by some Republicans.

What GOP says: This funding allocation may prod GOP lawmakers to probe deeper into the Biden administration’s methods in countering certain types of speech. House Republicans, according to the Washington Examiner, are considering wielding the appropriations process as a tool to block federal agencies from pumping money into domestic initiatives tagged as combating “disinformation.”

What HHS did before: In 2021, HHS, spearheaded by Secretary Xavier Becerra, allegedly dabbled in misinformation tracking, by offering guidance to Twitter and Facebook on handling virus-related content. The US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy admitted in an August 2021 call with education groups, that the government was “working to combat misinformation in many ways, one being working with tech companies.”

Skeptical voices: Brian Harrison, a former HHS chief of staff under Trump and a current GOP Texas state House member, communicated his skepticism to the Washington Examiner: “I have no confidence this is anything more than Biden’s HHS spending money we don’t have on government censorship efforts.”

Inside the project: Texas Woman’s University’s venture consists of crafting a “social network analysis” to scrutinize “misinformation consumed by the Hispanic community.” It involves conducting focus groups, creating “an economic impact analysis of proposed informational strategies for Hispanics,” and establishing a “longitudinal misinformation/disinformation index.” The study, set in El Paso, Texas, is also sifting through social media content in both English and Spanish.

Deja vu?: The aforementioned “index” has set off alarm bells due to its echo of a tool from the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, which previously backed the Global Disinformation Index, a British entity that faced criticism for supposedly operating blacklists of conservative media outlets.

HHS’s stance: In response, HHS spokeswoman Anne Feldman said: “HHS does not censor speech.”

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