The Volokh Conspiracy

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"U.S. State Department Funds a Disinformation Index That Warns Advertisers To Avoid Reason"


Reason's Robby Soave has the details; an excerpt:

The Global Disinformation Index (GDI) is a British organization that evaluates news outlets' susceptibility to disinformation. The ultimate aim is to persuade online advertisers to blacklist dangerous publications and websites.

One such publication, according to GDI's extremely dubious criteria, is Reason….

The U.S. government evidently values this work; in fact, the State Department subsidizes it. The National Endowment for Democracy—a nonprofit that has received $330 million in taxpayer dollars from the State Department—contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to GDI's budget, according to an investigation by The Washington Examiner's Gabe Kaminsky….

Reason's rating was due to three factors, according to GDI: "no information regarding authorship attribution, pre-publication fact-checking or post-publication corrections processes, or policies to prevent disinformation in its comments section."

It is not clear precisely what GDI means—the organization did not respond to requests for comment, and it has not made its full scoring analysis available to the public. But contrary to what GDI suggests, the authorship of Reason articles is clearly communicated to readers. Reason writers link to their sources, and promptly make (and note) corrections whenever appropriate. It's true that Reason does not specifically police disinformation in the comments section; that is perhaps an area where Reason's philosophy—free minds and free markets—clashes with GDI's….

If a self-described disinformation-tracking organization wants to loudly proclaim, in partisan fashion, that advertisers should only use mainstream and liberal news sites, it has that right. But advertisers should take note of its obvious bias, total lack of transparency in detailing media outlets' scores, and other methodological issues. And the State Department certainly has no business helping to fund it.

The whole article is much worth reading.