America First Legal Exposes Federal Government Pushing for Aggressive Censorship of Independent Voices

2024-03-18 05:49:08

Internal documents obtained by America First Legal from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have revealed a disturbing initiative to promote widespread censorship practices across various sectors, aimed at suppressing independent perspectives and alternative narratives. Among the tactics included in the report, the agency advocates for “Advertiser Outreach” to cut “financial report” for those who don’t toe the government’s line.

The Foundation For Freedom Online reports that a recently uncovered “Disinformation Primer” authored by USAID’s Center on Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance (DRG) has exposed the agency’s overt endorsement of private sector censorship strategies and proposed additional censorship practices and techniques. The 97-page document, obtained through litigation against the U.S. Department of State by the public interest law firm America First Legal (AFL), lays bare USAID’s concerted efforts to influence technology companies, media organizations, education ministries, national governments, and funding bodies to adopt censorship measures.

One of the most alarming proposals outlined in the primer is the “Advertiser Outreach” strategy, which explicitly encourages corporate advertisers to financially throttle disfavored media sources and social media accounts. USAID argues that “cutting this financial support found in the ad-tech space would obstruct disinformation actors from spreading messaging online.” This tactic, which has been widely employed by the censorship industry, directly undermines the financial sustainability of independent and alternative media outlets.

The USAID report expresses concern over the erosion of traditional media influence, characterizing it as a “loss of information integrity.” The primer advocates for “media literacy” initiatives, which often serve as a means to psychologically condition citizens to distrust and avoid certain types of establishment-disfavored media. This approach not only undermines the principles of free speech and open discourse but also perpetuates a monopoly on information by traditional media sources.

The USAID report also targets gamers and gaming sites, pushing for the need to censor “interpretations of the world that differ from ‘mainstream’ sources.” The agency explicitly identifies ordinary individuals contributing their own research and collectively forming “populist expertise” as a key threat, rather than focusing on foreign state actors. This stance reveals a disturbing disregard for the fundamental right of citizens to engage in independent thought and expression.

The primer also endorses controversial censorship techniques such as Google’s “Redirect Method” and “prebunking,” which aim to redirect users searching for disfavored content to establishment-curated information. These methods, developed by influential censorship industry insiders like Jigsaw and Joan Donovan, represent a blatant attempt to manipulate public discourse and shape narratives.

Moreover, USAID’s definition of “malinformation” encompasses factually accurate speech deemed to have been “taken out of context,” granting the agency broad discretion to censor legitimate discourse under the guise of combating misinformation. Even satire and parody are labeled as forms of disinformation, further eroding the boundaries of free expression.

Read more at the Foundation for Freedom Online.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship.

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America First Legal Exposes Federal Government Pushing for Aggressive Censorship of Independent Voices


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