‘Cuts’, ‘retrenchment’ and ‘savings’ are very much the buzz words over on King Charles Street. There’s lots of talk about ‘fierce and draconian’ reductions in foreign aid spending with James Cleverly warning that ‘money is tight.’ So Mr S was surprised to discover that the Foreign Office will spend at least £2.5 million on the controversial ‘Global Disinformation Index.’
What’s that, you might ask? The GDI is a (supposedly) non-partisan, non-profit which aims to provide ‘independent, neutral and transparent data and intelligence to advise policymakers and business leaders about how to combat disinformation.’ The British-based outfit recently hit the headlines on the other side of the pond after ranking leading American publishers among the ‘most risky’ sites in the United States. It published a 27-page risk assessment report in December in which the New York Post was found to have ‘frequently displayed bias, sensationalism and clickbait’, a view which, er, its staff understandably don’t share.
Another of the supposed worst offenders was the libertarian magazine Reason and the conservative magazine the American Spectator. All of the sites deemed the ‘ten riskiest online news outlets’ among the 69 studied by the GDI were right-leaning, prompting concerns of political bias. Funny that! Republican congressman Ken Buck has now written to the Secretary of State Anthony Blinken demanding answers as to why Blinken’s taxpayer-funded department is ‘paying foreign (and domestic) entities to perform what is essentially censorship is troubling.’
Over here, there has been a far more muted reaction to the report, thought the Times did pick the story up at the beginning of March. The Foreign Office insisted to the paper that the GDI has made ‘a significant contribution to countering harmful content from hostile state and non-state actors’ and added that ‘the FCDO does not fund the GDI’s activities in the US.’ Still, they are funding the same organisation which is pumping this stuff out – and the Foreign Office are by no means stingy in their largesse.