Uncovered emails in lawsuit reveal State Department used taxpayer funds to develop and market a censorship tool for tech companies

April 12, 2023
Ben Marquis

The Republican attorneys general of Louisiana and Missouri have been engaged in a lawsuit against President Joe Biden's administration since last year over alleged efforts by the federal government to convince or coerce Big Tech firms and social media platforms to engage in censorship against those who dissent from preferred narratives.

As part of that lawsuit, it has now been revealed that the State Department used taxpayer funds to develop and then actively market an advanced censorship tool known as the "Disinfo Cloud," Breitbart reported.

That tool, intended to root out and identify so-called "disinformation" -- a catchall term increasingly used by the left to describe anything they disagree with -- was created and marketed by a unit within the State Department known as the Global Engagement Center.

State Department pushed taxpayer-funded censorship tool on private sector

The Federalist reported on Tuesday that a pair of 2020 emails from a GEC senior adviser at that time, Samaruddin Stewart, to the LinkedIn platform reveal that the federal government was engaged in marketing to the private sector its "Disinfo Cloud" censorship tool that would essentially be utilized to silence some of the same taxpayers that funded the development of the tool.

Buried deep within a 164-page legal filing in October 2022 from the Louisiana and Missouri AGs and largely overlooked until now are those two emails dated in February and March of 2020.

In the February email from Stewart to LinkedIn, which served as a sort of introduction and request for a meeting, the GEC adviser said that he'd been "tasked with building relationships with technology companies," including LinkedIn and other social media platforms, to gauge interest in a new tool designed for "countering disinformation."

In a follow-up email in March to that company, which made reference to a prior verbal discussion, Stewart wrote, "I’ll send information … about gaining access to Disinfo Cloud -- which is a GEC funded platform that offers stakeholders an opportunity to discover companies, technology, and tools that can assist with identifying, understanding, and addressing disinformation."

Sales associates or diplomats?

The Federalist further reported that GEC and the State Department more broadly once proudly heralded its "Disinfo Cloud" as a sort of "one-stop shop" that could be used to "identify and then test tools that counter propaganda and disinformation."

The outlet noted that GEC also promoted an associated tool known as "Testbed" that, as the name implies, provided an opportunity for interested private sector parties to test out the "Disinfo Cloud" tool to see if it would work for them, and that if it didn't work exactly as hoped, GEC was "open to insights and is here to help implement ideas to move the counter propaganda and disinformation mission forward."

On top of all of that, it was also revealed in the lawsuit that in addition to the apparent cold calls and emails to essentially try to sell the "Disinfo Cloud" tool to private sector tech companies, the State Department also used taxpayer money to develop "infomercials" and "webinars" to promote the censorship tool.

The Federalist pointed out that, according to the State Department, the "Disinfo Cloud" has since "been retired," but the report indicated that use of the GEC's "Testbed" to presumably fine-tune or spin-off of the "Disinfo Cloud" resulted in lucrative "sponsorship" money -- of course funded by taxpayers -- for several private companies that now routinely label conservative news outlets as sources of so-called "disinformation," including NewsGuard, PeakMetrics, and Omelas, which all received upwards of $1 million or more.

Taxpayers also allegedly helped fund the "Global Disinformation Index"

Both The Federalist and Breitbart also referenced the separate but related "Global Disinformation Index," which was funded in part by the State Department -- reportedly to the tune of $665,000 in taxpayer-funded grants -- and progressive billionaire George Soros' Open Society Foundation.

Breitbart reported separately in February that Republican senators like Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) had raised the alarm over the GDI and how it was being used, particularly by Microsoft, to essentially blacklist conservative media outlets and promote left-leaning sites.

"It would be extremely concerning if the US Government is indeed funding the Global Disinformation Index, which is being used to target conservative media outlets," Sen. Blackburn said in a pair of tweets at that time. "We’ve seen recently how the US government has tried to use the tech sector to control the narrative on many issues. Outlets such as the Huffington Post and BuzzFeed are among the biggest pushers of disinformation, yet are ranked as very trustworthy by the index."

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