- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 11, 2023

A dozen House Republicans on Saturday doubled down on GOP demands for answers over State Department funding for a foreign media monitoring group that provides “dynamic blacklists” used to suppress disfavored news outlets.

In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken led by Rep. Andrew Clyde, Georgia Republican, the lawmakers added to previous calls that the State Department answer for hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer-funded grants to the Global Disinformation Index through two government-backed entities.

“These grants have real-world implications, chilling freedom of expression and speech with impunity,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter first reported by The Washington Examiner.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The lawmakers’ demands for details behind the grants add to previous scrutiny from Republican lawmakers after The Examiner reported last month that GDI received U.S. taxpayer-funded grants.

On Friday, Rep. Ken Buck, Colorado Republican asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a letter to “cease all current and future taxpayer funding of the GDI” and spell out how much U.S. funding is spent on third-party groups that “implicate the rights of free speech of American citizens.”

The funding amounts to about $545,000 from the National Endowment for Democracy and $100,000 from the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, Fox News Digital reported.

The House Oversight and Accountability Committee has also launched a probe into the State Department’s role in funding the Global Disinformation Index.

The group applies “risk ratings” to news outlets meant to steer advertising revenue from outlets deemed risky — often targeting conservative publications.

Saturday’s letter was co-signed by Reps. Paul Gosar of Arizona, Alexander Mooney of West Virginia, Dan Bishop of North Carolina, Andy Biggs of Arizona, Bill Posey of Florida, George Santos of New York, Andrew Ogles of Tennessee, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Kat Cammack of Florida, Matthew Rosendale of Montana and Barry Moore of Alabama.

The State Department-backed National Endowment for Democracy, which previously funded the GDI, said last month that it cut ties with the organization following the Examiner’s reporting.

National Endowment for Democracy spokesperson Leslie Aun said her organization gave two grants to GDI, but not to police U.S. political speech.

The grants were “very narrowly focused on an initiative to identify and combat the disinformation flowing from authoritarian regimes, particularly China,” she told The Times.

A State Department spokesperson pushed back previously on the claims, saying that the “Global Engagement Center in no way moderates content on social media platforms; that is not its mission or its intent.”

“The role of the GEC is to identify foreign state and non-state disinformation narratives, trends and techniques aimed at undermining or influencing the policies, security or stability of the United States, U.S. allies and partner nations,” the spokesperson told The Washington Times.

The department also said that the “Global Disinformation Index was put together for an international partnership of professionals who were looking at which nations were most resistant to disinformation.”

- Valerie Richardson and Dave Boyer contributed to this report.

• Joseph Clark can be reached at jclark@washingtontimes.com.

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