University’s ‘Disinformation Lab’ publishes ‘riskiest’ media list: All are conservative

Analysis by WorldTribune Staff, May 30, 2023

Students at the state-funded University of Texas at Austin, under the direction of academics holding an anti-conservative bias, compiled a list of the “riskiest” media outlets in America. No shocker here — all were conservative.

The university’s Global Disinformation Lab tasked the students with putting out the Global Disinformation Index (GDI) which included outlets such as the New York Post, Daily Caller, Washington Examiner, and The Federalist.

GDI’s report blacklisting conservative media as the ‘riskiest’ disinformation outlets was researched and written by students at UT Austin. / Creative Commons / CC BY 2.0

“That a handful of students, with limited training, evaluated the media outlets and wrote the report that GDI then marketed to advertisers for blacklisting media outlets — costing the conservative press potentially millions of dollars — is troubling. Even more appalling is that the students used a state-funded lab and the university profited from the project,” Margot Cleveland wrote in a May 25 analysis for The Federalist.

In February of this year, an Washington Examiner exclusive by Gabe Kaminsky exposed the “disinformation” tracking organization. Kaminsky reported that the GDI’s rating of American news outlets was skewed, with the top 10 supposed “riskiest” outlets being conservative, including American Spectator, Newsmax, The Federalist, American Conservative, One America News, The Blaze, Daily Wire, RealClearPolitics, Reason, and the New York Post. In contrast, the top 10 “least risky” outlets leaned nearly entirely left of center.

Kaminsky stressed that the Global Disinformation Index, or GDI, says its mission is to “remove the financial incentive” to create “disinformation,” with its “core output” being the “dynamic exclusion list” that ranks news outlets based on their supposed disinformation “risk.” GDI then sells subscriptions to its lists to marketing organizations, which pull advertising dollars from the outlets.

At the time of the Washington Examiner’s report, Xandr, which is owned by Microsoft, used GDI’s exclusion list to limit advertising dollars. Xandr has since reportedly dropped its use of the blacklist.

Documents obtained by The Federalist from the university’s Global Disinformation Lab show that the GDI “in essence, paid the state university to manage student workers who would then apply the GDI methodology to rate the various media outlets and write the final report.” The goal was to complete the report before the 2022 midterms.

The Federalist’s Cleveland noted that email and text exchanges between lab manager Sally Dickson and Executive Director Michael Mosser that were dated after the Washington Examiner story broke, further reveal that lab “saw nothing wrong with a government institution compiling a blacklist of media outlets since they merely followed the GDI methodology.”

The emails also show that officials at the UT-Austin lab were concerned that articles exposing the “disinformation” list would “spiral into Tucker Carlson land.”

“If it comes to that, there’s nothing anyone can do. It’s all aboard the crazy train at that point.” Mosser wrote.

Internal communications from the also revealed more about the Global Disinformation Index’s “reach, as well as the State Department’s involvement in promoting censorship activities,” Cleveland noted.

Emails from the State Department’s Global Engagement Center invited the UT-Austin lab to participate in a technology pilot titled “the Ukraine Content Aggregator,” which claims it seeks to “amplify unique and verified content related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, including war crimes being committed.”

“Significantly, for this project, the State Department was working with the Centre for Information Resilience, which is where Nina Jankowicz landed after backlash forced the Biden administration to shutter the Department of Homeland Security’s Disinformation Governance Board, which Jankowicz had been tapped to head,” Cleveland noted.

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