House Republicans Accuse State Department of Threats To Obstruct Online Censorship Investigation

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House Republicans are claiming that their investigation into government censorship of US companies is under threat by the State Department. The investigation has been focused on the State Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC) providing financial support to the Global Disinformation Index (GDI), a UK-based think tank, which has been accused of causing the blacklist of (largely conservative) media outlets from receiving advertising income.

Current evidence suggests that the Biden Administration may limit the Republican-led committee’s access to documentation solely to internal review, a move seen by lawmakers as a discreet obstruction to their investigation.

The accusations were put forth by House Small Business Committee Chairman, Roger Williams (R-TX) and fellow committee member, Rep. Beth Van Duyne (R-TX) who wrote a letter to GEC special envoy James Rubin and assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, Naz Durakoglu, renewing their call for documentation disclosure and an in-depth briefing.

Amid mounting legal pressures from Texas and two conservative news platforms – the Daily Wire and The Federalist – who have accused the GEC of implementing an unconstitutional censorship plot, tensions are on the rise between state officials and lawmakers.

The lawsuit centers on accusations against senior officials, including Antony Blinken, Secretary of State, who allegedly misuse federal funding of GDI and NewsGuard, an online company claiming to weed out misinformation. Both organizations were cited in the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, which sought to prevent the Pentagon from funding them.

Last Wednesday, Durakoglu voiced his worries about the unauthorized divulgence of high-profile information by the committee in a letter addressed to Williams, according to a correspondence copy accessed by the Washington Examiner, which was first to report on the initial connections between the government and these supposedly “independent” speech-monitoring entities.

He revealed that last year, the State Department had delivered the requested grant records despite them being classified as “sensitive but unclassified,” and not being intended for general release.

On the 9th of January, an article covering the committee’s inquiry was featured in the Washington Examiner, complete with attached documents. In his letter to Williams, Durakoglu disclosed that the committee did not make an effort to liaise with the department to safeguard or explore any possible sensitivities prior to publishing.

Durakoglu further communicated the department’s dedication to accommodating the need for information pertaining to the GEC. He, however, cautioned that without a better understanding of how the committee will handle sensitive information, the department may only provide documentation unsuitable for public release in a private setting. This will have the undesired effect of denying the committee access to its own copies of the grant records, forcing them to merely take notes.

House Republicans view this move by the State Department as unsatisfactory and symptomatic of GEC’s overarching reluctance to cooperate with information requests. Williams claimed that despite making their first request six months ago, the GEC only responded with a five-page spreadsheet that left out the majority of the requested records.

Senior Republicans Williams and Van Duyne won’t be thwarted by any potential impediments and have reiterated their demands in another letter to Rubin and Durakoglu. The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab has been accused of playing a significant role in the censorship of US citizens during various notable events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and US elections in both 2020 and 2022, in connection with House Foreign Affairs Committee Republicans.

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Tired of censorship and surveillance?

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