Should Americans rely on governments—whether foreign or domestic—to determine which news sources are “trustworthy” enough for them to broadly access?

A new series of investigative reports from The Washington Examiner shows that to many U.S. government officials, the answer is “yes.”

According to the report, the U.S. State Department is funneling taxpayer dollars to a foreign activist group called the British “Global Disinformation Index” (GDI), which blacklists conservative news outlets in order to deny them advertising dollars.

The New York Post summarizes how GDI targets conservative voices:

All 10 of the news organizations GDI classifies as “riskiest” or “worst” are outside of the left-liberal media club. They include right-of-center outlets like The Daily Wire and The American Conservative alongside the libertarian magazine Reason and the news aggregator RealClearPolitics. The New York Post, whose accurate coverage of Hunter Biden’s laptop in the runup to the 2020 election infuriated liberals and was squelched by Twitter, makes GDI’s “riskiest” top 10. Yet none of the outlets that misled readers for years about “Russian collusion” involving Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign appears on the list. Disinformation…has to be understood as information that does not conform to a liberal view of the world.

GDI’s list is used by major advertisers--including Microsoft’s Xandr--to drastically cut down on the reach of publications offering reporting, opinion, or both that don’t conform to a government-sanctioned narrative.

This news follows the flood of information from the #TwitterFiles among other evidence that social media companies are working hand-in-glove with the government to crack down on discussions and censor speech on their platforms.

Free speech is not a privilege of those favored by the government —it’s the right of every person in America, regardless of their background or creed. People should be free to express their own opinions, but instead, the government and private actors are working to remove the information they need to form those opinions in the first place. This censorship and “disinformation” labelling means that the information people can easily access is heavily skewed in one direction, with the government putting its thumb on the scale.

As The Post observed:

Government agencies in this country have few powers to suppress journalism and political speech. But the First Amendment becomes moot when censorship is outsourced to foreign actors and a small body of politically motivated (or intimidated) firms that control the infrastructure of mass communications… Unlike government, the tech companies cannot force anyone to use or pay for their services. But also unlike government, they are free to behave as arbitrarily and partially as they like, without a Bill of Rights to restrain them.

When private companies label certain views as “disinformation” it poses a problem for all Americans. As Jeremy Tedesco said in an interview with Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts, major corporations “have an enormous impact on our public dialogue and our ability to debate issues, which is essential to a free society.” They can’t use their power and impact to crack down on the freedom of speech and freedom of the press that sustain a free society.

Despite evidence of collusion between Big Tech and Big Government, these companies are not transparent about the requests they receive to censor speech from government entities. Of the 50 companies we surveyed in the Viewpoint Diversity Score 2022 Business Index, none provided sufficient disclosures of government requests to suppress users or content. This includes Big Tech giants Meta (Facebook, Instagram, etc.), Alphabet (Google), and Twitter.

Rather than continuing down the dead-end path of coordinated censorship, social media companies can correct course by adopting the Viewpoint Diversity Score model policy preventing unclear and imprecise terms like “disinformation.” Companies should also participate in the survey portion of our annual Business Index, which provides transparency into whether government agencies or other third-party entities are playing a role in content moderation on the platforms.

Read the full New York Post article here, and the Washington Examiner’s Investigative report here.