Left-Wing ‘Disinformation’ Groups Choking Off Conservative Media Money

hundred-dollar-bills to censor right wing media AFP PHOTO_NOEL CELIS
AFP/Noel Celis, FL-photography / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Supposedly “nonpartisan” groups are influencing ad companies behind the scenes to blacklist conservative websites under the guise of fighting what they consider to be “disinformation.”

A recent report from the Washington Examiner delves into the inner workings of these groups and their relationship with ad companies, as they are essentially using their influence with these ad companies to target right-wing outlets.

According to the report, some brands are reaching out to third-party companies tasked with tracking what they deem to be “disinformation,” thereby advising the brand to defund websites the organization believes are spreading falsehoods or misleading narratives. One of the organizations highlighted in the report is the Global Disinformation Index (GDI). Its website states plainly, “We exist to disrupt online disinformation.” 

The organization asserts that disinformation is largely “motivated by financial gain, the result of the dominant attention-driven business models that drive today’s internet.” In order to reduce what it considers to be “disinformation,” GDI works to “remove the financial incentive to create it.”

It lays out its strategy as follows:

Brands unwittingly provide an estimated quarter of a billion dollars annually to disinformation websites through online advertisements placed on them. GDI uses both human and artificial intelligence to assess disinformation risk across the open web. We then provide these risk ratings to brands and advertising technology partners, providing them with a trusted and neutral source of data with which to direct their advertising spend.

Perhaps what is most concerning is the fact that GDI fails to offer a succinct view of what it considers to be “disinformation,” explaining it “views disinformation through the lens of adversarial narrative conflict.”

“Disinformation occurs when someone pushes an intentionally misleading narrative which is adversarial against democratic institutions, scientific consensus or an at risk group — and which carries a risk of harm,” it states, failing to specify how it specifically determines intentionality or the specific criteria for a “misleading narrative.” Instead, GDI uses vast generalizations in its summary, asserting that narratives it considers to be “adversarial,” if left unchecked, will result in dire consequences, including “violence, illness and death.

It states:

Often these narratives are crafted using selected elements of fact.Whenever someone peddles an intentionally misleading narrative, often crafted using selected elements of fact, that is adversarial in nature against an at-risk individual, group, or institution and that creates a risk of harm, disinformation is being spread. Adversarial narratives undermine trust in our social, political, economic, and scientific institutions and sow or exacerbate division within our societies, often leading to real world harms, including violence, illness and death.

GDI further materializes its goals via its “Dynamic Exclusion List” (DEL), ranking news outlets based on their risk of ”disinformation.”

“The DEL contains the worst offending websites and apps across multiple countries and languages and is continually updated to capture new disinformation sources and narrative,” GDI states, noting that ad companies can license this data to essentially defund those dominating their list of offenders. 

An October 2022 brief of the GDI’s Disinformation Risk Assessment examined 69 news sites and rated right-leaning sites such as The Federalist, TheBlaze, One America News Network, The Daily Wire, and American Spectator as some of the “riskiest” websites. Meanwhile, it ranked left-wing and establishment outlets such as HuffPost, BuzzFeed News, the New York Times, and the Washington Post as the “least risky.”

GDI’s CEO, Clare Melford, cited Breitbart News in a 2022 podcast appearance, noting that a “whole ecosystem of organizations” targeting the outlet has led to it being deplatformed. She went a step further, pointing to Breitbart News’s coverage of crimes committed by illegal aliens. While she admitted those stories are “probably perfectly true,” she said it creates an “adversarial narrative.”

She said:

Similarly, there are news sites, such as Breitbart, which carries a section called immigrant crime, which is a curated list of stories, all of which are probably perfectly true about crimes committed by immigrants to the United States. So the problem with that section of Breitbart website is not the truth or the falsehood. It’s the narrative that’s created,” she said. “It’s creating an adversarial narrative against people who are not born in the US with a false narrative that those people are more likely to commit crime than native born Americans, which isn’t true. So the true false dichotomy is not a helpful way to think about disinformation. The adversarial narrative lens is a more useful and nuanced way. And it allows advertisers to have much more control over the sort of content that they want their ads to end up supporting. 

The Examiner cited a senior executive “at a company that buys ads in digital outlets,” affirming that “Breitbart News is on GDI’s exclusion list.”

More generally speaking, Melford identified “COVID and anti-vax content, mask protests, locked down protests, voter fraud around the 2020 election,” and abortion as what they consider to be “adversarial narratives.” She lamented during the podcast appearance:

If you look at a whole range of disinformation narratives, they are becoming, they are sort of blending together in support of this uber narrative that democracy isn’t working, that there’s a corrupt elite working only for themselves, not serving the will of the common man, and that only a strong man can get rid of the corrupt elite.

Similar to GDI, DoubleVerify also features an “inflammatory news index,” and according to the Examiner, “Breitbart and Newsbusters, as well as the left-leaning website RawStory, have been included in it, according to a 2016 Wired report.”

This revelation follows blatant censorship efforts against right-wing outlets at the hands of Big Tech over the years, as establishment news outlets such as the NYT essentially complain that there is too much free speech on certain platforms, such as Truth Social, using data from the media watchdog NewsGuard as a conduit for these complaints. 

As Breitbart News reported:

Despite presenting itself as a fake news watchdog, NewsGuard’s own founders have fueled false claims about major national news stories. At the height of the 2020 presidential election cycle, NewsGuard co-founder Steve Brill stated on national television that he thought there was a “high likelihood” that the Hunter Biden laptop story was a “hoax perpetrated by the Russians.”

At the time, NewsGuard’s co-CEO, Gordon Crovitz, told Breitbart News it was not targeting Truth Social:

NewsGuard’s special reports have covered the spread of misinformation across all of the major social media platforms–not just Truth Social–for example, recent reports analyzed how TikTok’s algorithm feeds users Russian propaganda, how Chinese and foreign outlets have filled the void of RT and Sputnik on YouTube, and how Facebook and Twitter failed to enforce their own policies related to COVID-19 misinformation.

“You asked about the Hunter Biden laptop issue. We have failed news sites on the responsible reporting criterion if they reported that the laptop did not belong to Hunter Biden laptop or declared that it was the product of a Russian disinformation effort,” he added. 


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