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State Department Defends “Disinformation” Grant That Funded Online Blacklists

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The State Department justified its funding of the Global Disinformation Index (GDI), an organization that provides blacklists of certain outlets for the purpose of demonetizing them.

In a letter sent in March, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) criticized the State Department for funding the GDI, and called for an investigation into the $100,000 grant the department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC) awarded GDI in 2021. In a response sent last week, the department said it did not regret funding the GDI.

The letter to Rep. Issa, authored by the assistant secretary of the bureau of legislative affairs Naz Durakoglu, stated that reports that the “State Department funding may have been used to fund GDI’s work in the United States” are inaccurate.

The letter continued to state that Issa’s letter “raises several important points concerning free speech and the principles of democracy, both of which are fundamental to the Department’s representation of U.S. foreign policy and promotion of American ideals abroad,” Washington Examiner reported.

Durakoglu argued that the grant “focused on countering foreign disinformation overseas and, consistent with the GEC’s mission, no domestic-focused activities were included in the scope of work.”

“Funding under the award could not be used for any other purpose,” the letter added.

“America’s foreign adversaries and competitors have wielded information manipulation as a tool of statecraft for decades,” Durakoglu wrote. “The comparatively recent proliferation of global information and communications technology accentuates a contemporary national security risk. The Department stands by the work of the GEC and the crucial role it plays in helping to ensure that foreign disinformation operations do not undermine the policies, security, or stability of the United States, its allies, and partners.”

Speaking to the Washington Examiner, Rep. Issa said: “It is disappointing but not surprising that the Biden State Department hasn’t come close to offering a suitable explanation or corrective action for its role in the censorship of individual Americans and established conservative media. Make no mistake: Congress isn’t done holding State accountable.”

The GEC missed a deadline to hand over documents related to the GDI and other groups to the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Congress is also considering whether or not to reauthorize the GEC in 2024. Last September, the State Department’s inspector general said that the GEC had failed to thwart foreign threats and failed to determine how foreign groups spent money provided by the US government.

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