NCLA Site Search

US Government fails to shut down censorship case

May 12, 2024

Since December of last year, conservative American media outlets the Daily Wire and the Federalist have been suing the US Department of State for allegedly throttling their journalism in violation of the First Amendment.

This week, in the lawsuit’s latest development, a judge, Jeremy Kernodle, denied the federal government’s request to have the case dismissed, and ordered expedited discovery in a written opinion that opened with a line from the First Amendment: “‘Congress shall make no law […] abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press’ […] This provision enshrines ‘[o]ur profound national commitment to the free exchange of ideas’.”

The State Department runs the Global Engagement Center, which advertises itself as a “data-driven body leading US interagency efforts in proactively addressing foreign adversaries’ attempts to undermine US interests using disinformation and propaganda”. The Center was established in 2011 under President Barack Obama to target violent extremism and terrorist organisations but, according to the lawsuit, it has funded and promoted technologies that effectively censored the Federalist and the Daily Wire, including the Disinfo Cloud and NewsGuard Technologies.

The Disinfo Cloud, a product of the State Department, also funds the Global Disinformation Index, a ratings agency that blocks advertising revenue from disfavoured media websites, including UnHerd, by warning prospective advertisers that certain outlets are bad for “brand safety”. In UnHerd’s case, publishing the articles of gender-critical feminists such as Kathleen Stock was the motivating factor behind the GDI blacklisting, which has resulted in a dramatic loss of advertising revenue.

Though the GEC is barred from using its funds for anything besides “countering foreign propaganda and misinformation that threatens United States Security”, it has in fact funded Park Capital Investment Group, which in turn launched Disinfo Cloud, whose fact-checking and media literacy tools were used not merely against foreign propaganda, but against American speech, the lawsuit argues.

“You’re seeing the targeting of conservatives, but you’re also seeing the targeting of individuals who are saying something contrary to what the government wants the public to think and believe,” Margot Cleveland of the New Civil Liberties Alliance, the group representing the Daily Wire and the Federalist, told UnHerd, listing speech restrictions on Covid-19, vaccines, the lab leak theory and election integrity“Everyone should be concerned about limitations on freedom of speech.”

Originally Published in Unherd