State Department launches attack on the free press with ‘disinformation index’

It's no different than a censorship campaign.

In a shocking and unprecedented attack on the free press, the State Department recently funded a “disinformation index” that warns advertisers to avoid some media outlets. Among them? The longtime libertarian publication, Reason magazine.

In fact, Reason makes the top ten “riskiest online news outlets” according to the index, along with the New York Post, Real Clear Politics, The Daily Wire, The Blaze, One America News Network, The Federalist, Newsmax, The American Spectator, and The American Conservative.

Listing Reason, which is openly biased towards libertarian viewpoints but always fact-based in our experience, alongside publications like The Daily Wire or One America News is quite the stretch. But regardless of the credibility of the outlets listed in this camp, it is absolutely an attack on the First Amendment for the State Department to be weighing in on such matters at all.

The government has no business dictating which publications are credible or deserving of advertisers at all. This is a blatant attempt to undercut outlets that the government dislikes and undermine their credibility while also lobbying to strip them of their funding. It’s hard to think of a bigger assault on the free press than that. To make matters worse, they used taxpayer dollars to carry this out—just the latest example of the government using our own money against us.

The report was created by The Global Disinformation Index (yes, that’s apparently a real thing), which is a British organization that claims to evaluate how susceptible news outlets are to “disinformation.” Their end goal is to convince advertisers to blacklist certain publications and websites. The State Department subsidized this work via the National Endowment for Democracy, which is a nonprofit that has received a whopping $330 million in taxpayers dollars, and which contributed hundreds of thousands to the GDI.

According to reporting from Reason, the report also put in work to elevate its preferred outlets as well, “GDI ranked the 10 so-called ‘lowest-risk’ online news outlets, which include: NPR, The Associated Press, The New York Times, ProPublica, Insider, USA Today, The Washington Post, BuzzFeed News, The Wall Street Journal, and HuffPost. Many of these publications frequently produce admirable journalism. But they are not immune to disinformation—HuffPost, for instance, repeatedly suggested that the New York Post’s infamous Hunter Biden laptop story was Russian misdirection. Notably, NewsGuard gives HuffPost a score of 87.5/100.”

Just last week, I listened to a program on NPR where a guest claimed Right to Work laws outlaw unions, which is patently untrue. There was no rebuttal from the host.

And the New York Times has also suffered countless controversies surrounding its reporting, including a disastrous report they made in 2015 claiming New York nail salons were basically involved in mass human trafficking and underpaying their employees. The report had numerous factual errors, and ironically, Reason magazine issued its own three-part series investigating the matter and calling attention to the problems in the story.

No outlet gets it right 100% of the time. Information changes, sources can be faulty, and yes, some outlets are straight garbage. It is up to the market and the free exchange of information to sort these matters out though, not the government.

This index is no different than a censorship campaign. It is illegal, unconstitutional, and the outlets that were targeted here have a nice lawsuit on their hands. Let’s hope they bring it.

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Hannah Cox
Hannah Cox
Hannah Cox is a libertarian-conservative writer and co-founder of BASEDPolitics. She's also the host of the BASEDPolitics podcast and an experienced political activist.