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Documents: US government agency promoting censorship

USAID is trying to tackle "populism". Credit: Getty

March 16, 2024 - 6:00pm

America First Legal (AFL), a public interest law firm, has obtained documents through a lawsuit which reveal a government agency’s recommendations for censorship.

The documents, created by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), encourage national governments and private entities to combat disinformation. Its recommendations are vaguely expressed — “regulate ad networks”, for example — but the report spells out various censorship methods in positive terms without explicitly endorsing them. These include disrupting the finances of disfavoured information sources by getting advertisers to pull funding, and shaping the way the public interprets the news through “media literacy” programmes in schools.

AFL sued for access to USAID documents after the agency failed to respond to its FOIA request, eventually gaining access to a “Disinformation Primer” — labelled for internal use only — laying out strategies for the media, non-profits, think tanks and other non-governmental groups to censor alternative and “populist” points of view. The document was first reported by the Foundation for Freedom Online.

The report addresses not only misinformation and disinformation, but also “malinformation”: true information which is used in a “harmful” manner.

“Problematic information,” the primer explains, often originates from alternative media spaces such as Reddit, Discord and 4Chan, as well as gaming websites, where “individuals contribute their own ‘research’ to the larger discussion”, creating “populist expertise” that shapes alternative narratives.

Further, the document includes a list of recommendations, attributed to the Council of Europe, through which various governments and private entities could combat disinformation in order to “enhance political communications” and “address national security and foreign interference”.

Media organisations, it says, should agree on policies on “strategic silence”, a term that is never defined or elaborated upon. They should debunk sources, not just content, and produce more content on “news literacy”. In addition, it advises outlets to tell stories about “information disorder”, defined as “a condition in which truth and facts coexist in a milieu of misinformation and disinformation”.

National governments, the USAID document urges, should regulate ad networks and commission research on “information disorder”. Tech companies should build tools for fact-checking and verification.

This is the latest in a series of revelations about US government agencies promoting censorship through private entities under the auspices of combatting misinformation. In the lead-up to the 2020 election, for example, the FBI warned social media companies of a possible Russian disinformation op remarkably similar to the Hunter Biden laptop scandal which broke soon afterwards. Social media companies censored the story as disinformation, but it was eventually verified by mainstream media outlets including the New York Times after Joe Biden won the election.

As the 2024 election draws closer, the possibility remains that such government-led censorship efforts will begin ramping back up.


is UnHerd’s US correspondent.

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Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
4 months ago

Still with the laptop?!?!? America First Legal?!?! You people are absolutely comical!
I can understand why fact-checking and verification terrify you so much though. I mean, anyone who believes a single syllable that Donald Trump utters is clearly allergic to the truth!

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
4 months ago

Jan. 6

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
4 months ago

Scary stuff

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
4 months ago
Jae
Jae
4 months ago

Typical leftist, loves government control. Until it comes for you of course, which if you ever actually read anything in history, it inevitably does. Well done you for supporting government censorship, you must be such a proud little socialist foot soldier. Just like the ones Lenin loved. Good job.

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
4 months ago

Given the enormous power government agencies can wield over private businesses – for example through regulation and public procurement – the creepiest element of this is “getting advertisers to pull funding”. Independent media cannot long survive without advertising income.

Simon Boudewijn
Simon Boudewijn
4 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Facebook, Google, Microsoft, old Twitter, and all the rest – every one was created by USA Federal Government ‘Spook’ agencies. This is true – look it up….

As the global Elites own all the money Corporations, FED, Banking and Finance, Power, the Uniparty, the Swamp – or Blob as it is now called or the ‘Deep State’, the Security Agencies, the NGOs, the Justice Systems, and everything else…

They will do as they please –

If Trump loses in 2024 – it is over – the West is done, Feudalism will be the condition of us all for the next 1000 years…. ”You will own nothing – and if asked; you will say you are happy

Robbie K
Robbie K
4 months ago

Just complete twaddle.

Will K
Will K
4 months ago
Reply to  Robbie K

Just complete twaddle.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
4 months ago

If Trump wins, we will have to endure four more years of rule by the progressive blob. Life goes on with garbage governance. It’s not the end of the world, unless it destabilizes international relations even further. If Trump wins, progressives will burn their cities to the ground. It will make the BLM riots look like a walk in the park.

Simon Boudewijn
Simon Boudewijn
4 months ago

haha…..

”US Government Censorship Shocker!”

I mean after many hundreds of political Prisoners from the ”Great Selfie Riots” of Jan 6, 2021 (where they fallowed the police instructions and stayed between the ropes on a self guided tour of Congress and took selfies) did years in Federal Prison without charges – and ended up with in excess of 800 Years prison sentences of hard time..

After the great Fani Prosecutorial corruption, Perjury, and professional Misconduct case just found she did it all but that nothing is to be done about it…

Or the Hur Special Investigation found Biden did break Federal law as charged in every case with his ‘Top Secret Documents’ but would not be charged as he is a ‘Well Meaning old man.”

Or Trump facing 800 Years in Federal Prison on 100% made up Political War-fare cases – and forced to pay $600,000,000 at corrupt Judges whims (no jury trial, just the Judges adjudicating it all, with no evidence or case at all)

Or Trump stricken from 3 States Primary Ballots as he is adjudged by local prosecutors being an ‘Insurrectionist’ – although never charged for it..

Or the deadly vax forced on all as ‘Safe and Effective’ when it is deadly and the ones who take it get more covid than those who did not….and closing the schools and destroying the education of countless poorly parented children taking their one hope away.. and bankrupting the West

And the ‘Great Game’ Proxy War we created in Ukraine to try to destroy Russia – but instead made Russia prosper and destroyed Ukraine and wrecked the European Economy – Nordstream,…..

And the stealing of the Elections in 2020

And sending bombs and Billions of $ of weapons to Israel to conduct Genocide – and sending some tiny amount of food to the genocidees to look good

And running the National Debt to $34 Trillion so the children will never have anything as we spent their future making the Global Elite super, super, wealthy

And the Hunter laptop, and Berisma, and the Biden Family influence peddling

And, and, and….

And now this! Wow, haha….

Malcolm Robbins
Malcolm Robbins
4 months ago

Good article thanks!

B Emery
B Emery
4 months ago

‘think tanks and other non-governmental groups to censor alternative and “populist” points of view.’

Allow us to homogenise your opinions. In a free, democratic nation, alternative or populist views are not permitted, you are not free to speak, you will be told when you can speak and what you are allowed to say. Do not say anything that other people might agree with – you populist nutter.

“Problematic information,”“individuals contribute their own ‘research’ to the larger discussion”, creating “populist expertise” that shapes alternative narratives. ”: true information which is used in a “harmful” manner’

As a citizen of a democratic country with reasonable levels of education, you are too stupid to hold a valid opinion or conduct your own research. Any research that contravenes the government narrative or highlights the epic failures of your government is nothing more than populist clap trap that should be ignored, censored and the people posting it should be shamed, banned from participating in anything at all and ostracised from society.

‘Media organisations, it says, should agree on policies on “strategic silence”,’

As a member of a free, democratic country, you are only permitted to read opinions in keeping with the government narrative, all others will be silenced, burnt at the stake and thrown in the sea.

‘ National governments, the USAID document urges, should regulate ad networks and commission research on “information disorder”’

You will pay more in tax for the government to tell you to shut up.
The government has lost control of the narrative, the plebs have got smart, got the Internet, and are perfectly capable of reading. Even the government aren’t aware of the facts of the matter anymore – for some reason they are incapable of understanding the most basic economic issues, fighting a war, providing a stable energy supply and f*ck it, let’s just tear the world to pieces and destroy global trade and create a bankrupt, socialist dystopia. It’s your fault, as a citizen of a free, democratic nation, for causing information disorder.

Joann Robertson
Joann Robertson
4 months ago
Reply to  B Emery

B Emery you nailed it!

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
4 months ago

Amusingly, Unherd have chosen to censor my comments on this comical article!

Ian_S
Ian_S
4 months ago

Don’t feel bad CS, UnHerd seems to censor many of mine too. I’d always assumed it was a woke censorbot, but since, if you don’t mind me saying so, you’re pretty woke, so that can’t be … can it?

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
4 months ago

Hmm. Yours was the first and only comment on this story, for some hours.

But you haven’t yet realised one particular quality you share with Unherd – unpopularity.

But as site owner, they have more levers to address unpopularity and spur contributions / activity – one of which is censoring you 🙂

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
4 months ago

Zero to contribute as usual?

Robbie K
Robbie K
4 months ago

Anything they don’t like they suppress for 24-48 hours so it gets left out of the immediate discussion.

Ian_S
Ian_S
4 months ago

Interesting to juxtapose this article with the current UnHerd article on Piketty’s book about the filthy rich, an elite which has arranged society around itself in such a way as to get ever richer. This effort at a global censorship regime to limit “misinformation” — or viewpoints not aligned with their interests — would seem to be part of that cosy arrangement.

Now — will UnHerd publish this comment or censor it?

R Wright
R Wright
4 months ago

I am no American, but wouldn’t this be a prima facie violation of a person or corporation’s constitutional rights?

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
4 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

Surely (assuming a corporation is a person). The Bill of Rights does not create the right to speak, but prohibits the government from impairing that right or interfering with it. A human being is an animal that speaks; to deny that animal the ability to speak is to deny that animal’s humanity. Those who oppose free speech oppose humanity.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
4 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

The govt has employed a vast array of NGOs to do its dirty work so technically it’s not the govt violating free speech. Most of these NGOs are directly or indirectly funded by the govt. Nice workaround of the constitution.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
4 months ago

More jokes please!

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
4 months ago

Why am I just ‘Unherd Reader’? Of course I might be heard anyway, but only as one of herd. Can a herd be made up of contradictory opinions though. A select few constitute a herd or represent one, or pass for representing one? Impersonating an audience more vile than impersonating individuals.

Jae
Jae
4 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Off your meds again.

Matt Sylvestre
Matt Sylvestre
4 months ago

Orwell is spinning “god” love him…
Also, I suppose it’s a good thing overall I will never be made king for a day but the people directly behind this travesty should thank their lucky stars…

Erik Hildinger
Erik Hildinger
4 months ago

So, they’ve got a word for truths they don’t want you to know: “malinformation.”