Biden Admin Sued for Efforts to Silence Journalism

The cases threaten to blow a hole in the online censorship industry

Written by Hudson Crozier

What’s new: Two conservative media outlets joined the state of Texas to sue the State Department for funding groups that try to discredit and de-platform media sites. This comes after a left-wing site, Consortium News, sued one of these groups and the Pentagon in October for similar activity.

Why it matters: So-called disinformation organizations such as the ones taxpayers fund divert readers and ad revenue from media sites, effectively defunding them. The new lawsuits threaten to blow a hole in the online censorship industry spanning the public and private sectors.

Meet the players: The State Department funds the Global Disinformation Index (GDI), a British organization that tells advertisers “risky” media outlets to avoid supporting. Meanwhile, the Pentagon and State Department also fund Newsguard, a rating service that warns subscribers about the trustworthiness of websites and is used by numerous corporations and libraries.

The bias: The GDI overwhelmingly deems right-leaning websites and even vaguely conservative opinions as “disinformation” while sparing mainstream outlets. Consortium News, which often challenges mainstream narratives on U.S. foreign policy, accuses Newsguard of falsely labeling its reporting as foreign disinformation in service of the Pentagon.

Throwing the book at them: The Texas lawsuit backs up its claims with the First Amendment, the Administrative Procedure Act, and Texas’s social media law. It also notes federal law prohibits the State Department from using taxpayer funds “to influence public opinion in the United States.” The Pentagon and Newsguard are accused of flouting the First Amendment and defamation.

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