AMAC Exclusive – By Andrew Abbott
An intricate web of obscure NGOs and “government watchdog” groups – some of which are directly funded by U.S. taxpayer dollars – are working with Big Tech to censor and silence conservatives, according to one of the latest installments of the “Twitter Files” from journalist Matt Tiabbi.
The revelations further confirm conservative allegations of collusion between government bureaucrats and tech companies and raise fresh new lines of inquiry for House Republicans in their ongoing probe into Big Tech censorship.
Previous Twitter Files releases documented the unsettling relationship between America’s intelligence community and social media giants like Twitter. What makes this latest release unique is its documentation of direct links between Big Tech companies and shady nonprofits that receive lucrative grants from the federal government and are ostensibly committed to combatting “disinformation.”
Taibbi dubbed this relationship the “Censorship-Industrial Complex,” and described it as comprised of “state agencies like DHS, FBI, or the Global Engagement Center (GEC), along with ‘NGOs that aren’t academic’ and an unexpectedly aggressive partner, commercial news media.”
“NGOs ideally serve as a check on corporations and the government,” Taibbi wrote. But instead, many NGOs have now been ideologically captured by the left and are working hand-in-glove with Democrats and Big Tech executives to advance a liberal political agenda.
As Taibbi relayed, one particularly shocking report produced by the Aspen Institute – which receives millions of dollars each year from the federal government and has close ties to previous Twitter leadership and other Big Tech executives – concluded that “the state should have total access to data to make searching speech easier, speech offenders should be put in a ‘holding area,’ and government should probably restrict disinformation, ‘even if it means losing some freedom.’”
And just who does the Aspen Institute recommend be in charge of deciding what counts as disinformation? The Aspen Institute itself, as well as other likeminded groups.
“The Twitter Files show the principals of this incestuous self-appointed truth squad moving from law enforcement/intelligence to the private sector and back, claiming a special right to do what they say is bad practice for everyone else: be fact-checked only by themselves,” Taibbi concluded.
One of the highest profile members of this “truth squad” is the Global Disinformation Index (GDI) a U.K.-based non-profit that purports to be one of the leading organizations in combatting the spread of disinformation.
In October 2022, GDI published an extensive report proclaiming ten websites as “least risky” for disinformation and ten as “most risky.” Unsurprisingly, nine of the 10 “least risky” all have well-known liberal biases while all 10 of the “most risky” ranged from moderate to conservative-leaning.
Even the libertarian-oriented website Reason Magazine was listed as one of the riskiest for disinformation. Meanwhile, HuffPost, a website that has always been outspoken about its “liberal bias,” was listed as “fact-based, unbiased content free from sensational text or visuals.”
In the justification for each website’s level of risk, GDI did not assess for accuracy, but rather arbitrary metrics like “sensational language,” or “emotional images.” The criteria essentially made it such that that a site could be factually inaccurate, but as long as it used language that GDI didn’t consider sensational (in other words, language that toed the progressive line) a website would be considered low risk for disinformation.
GDI’s website explicitly states that the purpose of its report is to influence advertisers: “GDI’s media market risk assessment methodology was developed to assist advertisers and the ad tech industry in assessing the reputational and brand risk when advertising with online media outlets and to help them avoid financially supporting disinformation online.”
Clearly, the goal is to label all disfavored information (or information that runs counter to the liberal narrative) as false or disinformation, and then use that label to pressure advertisers to not support outlets that distribute that information – effectively censoring it.
GDI has hardly been subtle about its biases. In 2020, the group was one of the leading organizations trying to suppress the COVID-19 lab leak theory, calling it a “right-wing conspiracy.” GDI also has a long history of directly criticizing Republican lawmakers while praising Democrat initiatives.
GDI and organizations like it also set the standard for what is considered “disinformation” for social media platforms like Twitter. By using the partisan “disinformation” labels applied by GDI, Twitter justifies its own censorship of conservatives.
According to public records, GDI received $665,000 between 2020 and 2021 from two entities funded by the State Department. In essence, this amounted to U.S. taxpayer dollars flowing to a blatantly partisan organization that then used the money to silence conservatives and push a nakedly political agenda.
The Twitter Files have uncovered that there are dozens of organizations just like GDI, all of which are closely connected to government agencies and media companies. While Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter at first seemed like just a revolution of one free speech platform, it looks like it might soon evolve into a broader exposure of censorship and the entire seedy underbelly of the left-wing establishment.
Andrew Abbott is the pen name of a writer and public affairs consultant with over a decade of experience in DC at the intersection of politics and culture.