The U.S. State Department and its Global Engagement Center (GEC) are neck deep in “content moderation” efforts on social media platforms, according to a May 24 press release from AFL and an AFL lawsuit filed against the State Department on Nov. 4, 2022. America First Legal (AFL) began its FOIA efforts in April 2022. The lawsuit was one of two lawsuits filed on the same day to address the government’s involvement in “carry[ing] out state propaganda through willing participants from private media organizations.”
The second lawsuit was filed against the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Administration (CISA). AFL maintains the government continues to “outsource government propaganda and censorship to private entities.” AFL announced in February that it has filed “nine additional FOIA requests to obtain records about GEC grants” that effectively launder censoring activities on social media platforms through its private partnerships. CISA guidelines are the basis for much of GEC’s guidance concerning MDM on the internet.
No, The GEC Is Not Just Running Foreign Operations
The GEC repeatedly asserts that its mission is strictly to counter-terrorism and MDM abroad. However, AFL previously “uncovered that the GEC supported the Biden White House National Security Council’s (NSC) effort to share ‘Lessons Learned from CDC and Census on countering dis/mis information in real time’ across the federal government.” AFL discovered that the GEC began “combatting” mis-, dis-, and malinformation using the Census Bureau in 2020. Per reporting by UncoverDC, the CDC allegedly worked with the Census Bureau to “leverage their infrastructure to identify and monitor social media for vaccine misinformation.”
AFL FOIAs also reveal “the GEC used taxpayer dollars to create a video game called “Cat Park” to “Inoculate Youth Against Disinformation.” The trailer below advertising “Cat Park” to youth states is “[a] free, 15-minute game that effectively vaccinates players against disinformation. It plays like a visual novel and incorporates insights from research by the University of Cambridge.” The game can be played for “(for free) at https://catpark.game.” It also states under the trailer that “Cat Park was funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Global Engagement Center (GEC) and U.S. Embassy The Hague.” This was a domestic operation.
/4 AFL also obtained documents revealing State bureaucrats at GEC used taxpayer dollars to create a video game called “Cat Park” to “Inoculate Youth Against Disinformation.”
— America First Legal (@America1stLegal) February 7, 2023
GEC Partners with Poynter’s IFCN To Fact Check and Control the Narrative
The AFL documents released on May 24 allegedly show evidence of coordination between the GEC and a “global cartel” of “Big Tech-funded “fact-checkers” through the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) to control the international media narrative.” Such coordination renders many mainstream media organizations to be nothing more than state-controlled “purveyors” of propaganda and controlled narratives. As such, much of the “journalism” coming from legacy media is no longer even remotely independent or objective.
Poynter teaches global “digital media literacy” with the help of platforms like Facebook and Google through its MediaWise program targeting teens and adults. The “Teen Fact-Checking Network” (TFCN) pairs media literacy tips with fact-checks” and has been a “verified signatory” of the IFCN since 2020.
Politifact is also run by Poynter. According to the Poynter website, “Politifact is the largest political fact-checking news organization in the United States and winner of the Pulitzer Prize. It has published more than 16,000 fact-checks on its Truth-O-Meter.”
Politifact is housed at the Poynter Institute along with Mediawise and IFCN (International Fact Checking Network), and George Soros' Open Societies Foundation along with all the usual censorship-industrial complex "Trusted News Initiative (propaganda)" accomplices have been… https://t.co/7gibLzixtO pic.twitter.com/BNEsxYg3Dd
— Stacy Phillips🇺🇸🇺🇸 (@1stacyphillips) May 7, 2023
According to AFL, the GEC works closely and regularly with IFCN “on targeted campaigns” worldwide, according to the May 24 press release. FOIA documents reveal a partnership with Poynter in Tunisia, with additional funding from the “Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Google News Initiative, the Open Society Foundation for South Africa, the IFCN, the Omidyar Network, the Department of State, and earned income through Facebook.”
The Tunisia project launched a “Fact Check platform” to provide approved narratives and “facts” to “media outlets, government officials, and social influencers to counter Disinformation on COVID-19.” They recruited 240 youth “trained to be social influencers or descramblers promoting accurate information in their local communities to help the Ministry of Health (MoH) disseminate The Crisis and Risks Communication plan related to the COVID-19 pandemic.” FOIA’d emails show Poynter asked the GEC to do other “programming in Egypt and the region more broadly.”
This is an excellent deep dive & document dump on the State Dept’s “censorship laundering” apparatus: https://t.co/h0QQqvuNlR
— Mike Benz (@MikeBenzCyber) May 25, 2023
/5 The GEC regularly works with IFCN on targeted campaigns.
For example, the GEC worked closely with Baybars Orsek, Poynter’s director of international programming, to set up an IFCN partner in Tunisia.
The “GEC-funded project” would work on “achieving two main objectives: pic.twitter.com/nnKTIANQig
— America First Legal (@America1stLegal) May 24, 2023
According to AFL, working groups were also launched globally to “monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of IFCN’s actions to help fact-checkers.” The groups were also implemented to help combat the “harassment against fact-checkers.” The core working group shows individuals from fact-checking and news organizations from 9 countries, including the U.S.
There were multiple instances where the FOIA documents show approved media outlets became “mouthpieces for the state media” and the Biden administration. And, in cases like the Biden Laptop article written by the New York Post, the Washington Post “reached out to the GEC” to request a call on “more declassified Russian disinformation” ostensibly to write a countering article, thus running interference for the Biden campaign. The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times allegedly did the same in early 2021 to “publish a story promoting the GEC’s talking points on Russian disinformation and COVID-19 vaccines.” The GEC even provided talking points for reporters.
AFL notes that media organizations with whom they disagree were excluded from the working groups and used media that was “strongly biased towards the promotion of State-approved talking points.”
Media Literacy a Burgeoning Field: Government-Funded Media Literacy and MDM Studies Programs at Universities
Media literacy is a burgeoning field in the MDM arena, as revealed in recent entries by Mike Benz written for the Foundation for Freedom Online (FFO) by Mike Benz, founder of the organization. Benz notes that “Disinformation Studies” is” ‘academic speak‘ for online censorship.” According to Benz’s research, government funding is going to Harvard and other major universities and academic institutions to teach courses in the “field of mis- and disinformation studies.”
Notably, it seems much of the censorship coming out of our government is against conservatives. AFL and FFO broke a story on a DHS snitch program” called CP3 that has allegedly been “weaponized against conservatives” with “$39.6 million in taxpayer dollars.”
This is the same DHS program — called “CP3” — that @America1stLegal and @FFO_Freedom broke earlier this month plotter a snitch program against “Middle Aged Pro-Life Mothers” and “Old High School Friends” becoming “Budding Conspiracy Theorists.” https://t.co/H5u4N2OmqN
— Mike Benz (@MikeBenzCyber) May 25, 2023
AFL Files Historic Class Action Lawsuit Will Show “Scope of Surveillance and Censorship Cannot be Overstated”
On May 2, 2023, AFL also filed a “historic federal class action lawsuit against key persons and entities involved in the so-called ‘Election Integrity Partnership’ and the ‘Virality Project,'” on behalf of Jill Hines, the co-Director of Health Freedom Louisiana, and Jim Hoft, the founder the popular news website The Gateway Pundit. Defendants include the Stanford Internet Observatory and its Director and Research Manager, Alex Stamos and Renée DiResta, Dr. Kate Starbird of the University of Washington, Graphika, and the Atlantic Research Council’s Digital Forensic Lab. This lawsuit alleges:
“that these parties conspired with the federal government to conduct a mass surveillance and censorship operation targeting the political speech of millions of Americans on social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter (under its prior ownership). This operation was specifically designed to target conservative political speech on questions of great public interest like election integrity, COVID-19 vaccines, and vaccine mandates.”
“The scope of the surveillance and censorship cannot be overstated. The Defendants admitted that during 2020, they surveilled a staggering 859 million posts on Twitter alone and that they tracked for possible censorship almost 22 million Tweets. Again, during seven months in 2021, they tracked posts about COVID-19 with about 200 million engagements for possible censorship. Americans who dared to speak out against the woke liberal orthodoxy that has infiltrated every sector of corporate America would face the threat of censorship and de-platforming by Big Tech giants and these elusive surveillance organizations acting together with the federal government.”
The GEC Disarms Disinformation While Ignoring the Constitution
One final thought about the GEC. Featured at the top of the GEC’s “Disarming Disinformation” page is a statement from Joe Biden about the “shared responsibility” of “defend[ing] the truth and defeat[ing] the lies.” His message is rife with irony, given what we now know about Biden and the Biden administration’s efforts to use its partnerships with the media and Big Tech to launder state-approved narratives. Missouri v Biden, information released in the Twitter Files or AFL, and our reporting have shown this administration to be the antithesis of one that honors the Constitution. A scroll through the many reports, statements, and resources released by GEC on its Disarming Disinformation page may prompt readers who follow independent media sources to think twice before believing hook, line, and sinker the content delivered there.