Well-funded “disinformation” watchdog groups are part of a covert operation that blacklists conservative media outlets and seeks to expropriate them, likely costing news companies large sums of advertising dollars, a Washington Examiner investigation found.
Major advertisers are increasingly seeking advice from supposedly “non-partisan” groups that claim to identify and combat online “disinformation.” The same “disinformation” watchdogs compile secret blacklists of websites and forward them to advertising companies to fund and shut down speech they disapprove of, according to sources familiar with the situation, public memos and emails obtained by the Washington Examiner.
Brands seeking to promote their products online across multiple websites to increase their digital footprint are turning to digital advertising companies that specialize in global markets. In turn, some of these companies hire “disinformation” trackers to obtain private information about which websites they should supposedly “disable.”
The Global Disinformation Index (GDI), a U.K. group with two affiliated U.S. nonprofit groups that share similar board members, is one of the organizations shaping the advertising world behind the scenes. The GDI’s mission is to “remove the financial incentive” to create “disinformation,” and its “core product” is a secret “dynamic exclusion list” that rates news sources based on their alleged disinformation “risk factor,” according to the website. At least 2,000 websites are on that exclusion list, which “has had a significant impact on the advertising revenue of those websites,” Melford said in a March 2022 podcast episode hosted by the Safety Tech Innovation Network, a UK government-backed group.
Along with similar organizations, GDI has taken in a lot of money by funding disinformation tracking. The San Antonio, Texas-based charity recorded $345,000 in revenue in 2020, while its affiliated private foundation’s revenue increased from about $19,600 in 2019 to more than $569,000 in 2020, according to tax documents.