Daily Wire, Texas AG Ask Court To Block State Department’s Domestic ‘Misinformation’ Efforts
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 16: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a joint news conference with Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan at the U.S. Department of State on June 16, 2023 in Washington, DC. Blinken is scheduled to travel to Beijing this weekend in his first trip to China during the Biden administration. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Daily Wire, The Federalist, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Tuesday asked a federal court in Texas to grant an injunction barring the State Department from funding efforts to delegitimize domestic media outlets, as their lawsuit against the government winds its way through the courts.

The trio “seek a preliminary injunction to halt one of the most egregious government operations to abridge Americans’ speech and the American press in the history of the nation,” the motion, first reported by the Washington Examiner, states.

“The U.S. Department of State, through its Global Engagement Center (GEC), is actively intervening in the news-media market to limit the reach of, the circulation of, and render unprofitable, disfavored press outlets by funding the infrastructure, development, and marketing and promotion of censorship technology and private censorship enterprises to covertly suppress speech of a segment of the American press,” lawyers from the New Civil Liberties Alliance argue in the motion.

The State Department is tasked with foreign affairs and has no authority to operate domestically, and the Constitution forbids “abridging the freedom of speech or of the press,” it said.

The lawsuit alleges that GEC, a government agency housed within the State Department and created to fight terrorism, used tools of information warfare intended for foreign enemies and turned them against the right-of-center press by funding or promoting groups that purport to rate U.S. media outlets for reliability — often based on whether they hew to current government lines.

The government’s “censorship scheme causes irreparable harm to Media Plaintiffs who have been branded ‘unreliable’ and ‘risky’ by technology promoted by the State Department,” it said.

Texas, meanwhile, was allegedly infringed upon because the federal government’s effort to censor online content prevented the state from enforcing a state law, HB20, which requires social media companies to act as “common carriers” which do not discriminate based on content.

GEC “researched, assessed, funded, investigated, evaluated, tested, marketed, and/or promoted over 365 so-called Countering Propaganda and Disinformation or ‘CPD’ tools and technologies, including tools and technologies that target American speech and the American  press. These tools and technologies include so-called fact-checking technologies, media literacy tools, media intelligence platforms, social network mapping, and machine learning/artificial intelligence technology,” the motion said. GEC created a platform called “Disinfo Cloud” to house them, and encouraged U.S. social media and tech companies to use the resources, even creating a Silicon Valley office.

Most notably, two groups that rank news outlets on credibility and make lists that are used by advertisers to blacklist media outlets, NewsGuard and the Global Disinformation Index (GDI), were both involved with GEC.

The court filing includes a list of GDI rankings, which claim that liberal sites like ProPublica are among the “least risky,” while sites like the New York Post, Reason Magazine, The Federalist, and The Daily Wire are among the “riskiest” sites.

Advertisers are pressured not to do business with media outlets on the risky list, with the implied threat that the Left will boycott companies who do.

NewsGuard’s business model is similar, and the court filing says that in March 2023, its co-CEO Gordon Crovitz praised his company for “empowering governments… to support quality journalism and systemically defund sources of harmful misinformation.” NewsGuard has a deal with the teachers union promoting its media-rating browser extension in schools, and public libraries also use the software. The browser extension causes a “Proceed with Maximum Caution” flag to appear next to search results from flagged outlets.

“NewsGuard’s warning appears no matter the topic or the author involved. Consequently, articles authored by Professor Philip Hamburger or Senator Rand Paul appearing at The Daily Wire receive 49.5 ratings, while Op-Eds authored by those same gentlemen receive ratings of 100 when published at the Washington Post or the Wall Street Journal,” the lawyers wrote.

NewsGuard and GDI are not defendants in the lawsuit, but the suit alleges that the government adopted their behavior by supporting and promoting them. The government’s actions pose financial harm to the media outlets, the motion said.

GEC ran a tech competition encouraging the development of anti-“misinformation” technology, and granted an award to GDI, whose CEO Clare Melford said it would allow it to “support market-wide deployment so that the ad-tech space can offer advertisers the chance to choose which sites their ads support” — a statement that made clear that the result was domestic censorship.

The State Department also sponsored a “COVID-19 misinformation and disinformation” tech challenge, and the three winners were all “American companies which offer technologies that target Americans’ speech broadcast to Americans,” including NewsGuard, the motion said.

It also notes that the State Department separately paid for German censorship advocates to train American teachers.

The lawyers argue that a federal judge should immediately order State to cease its domestic misinformation efforts while the lawsuit proceeds, because media outlets will suffer harm if it continues, and because they are most likely to win the suit, given that the State Department is not supposed to operate domestically.

It said a 1936 precedent holds that the First Amendment guards against not only “the censorship of the press merely, but any action of the government” that indirectly results in censorship or the suppression of free debate necessary for a democracy.

“The First Amendment’s guarantee of a free press is infringed when government-supported and promoted third-parties rate media outlets in order to suppress and defund them,” the lawyers wrote.

The government has immunity from being sued for money, so the lawsuit seeks to stop the conduct. It could also result in discovery that sheds further light on the anti-“disinformation” industry and the government’s involvement with it.

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  Daily Wire, Texas AG Ask Court To Block State Department’s Domestic ‘Misinformation’ Efforts