If you’ve been around for very long, you know this website has suffered repeated hits for our content. We’ve been defunded, we’ve been hit by algorithmic changes that make it harder for people to find us, and we’ve been classified as a “disinformation” site. All of this has happened despite the fact we offer factual coverage and often use mainstream sources that are not targeted by censors.
While I’ve had my suspicions since the attacks first began, imagine the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when I recently read an expose by the Washington Examiner in which the United States government readily admitted giving funding to the very business that abruptly defunded my website back in 2021.
The US State Department “stands by” grant to fund censorship
It’s hard to believe that I’m writing this about the government of the United States of America, but here we are in 2023 with our own government striving to make at least half the country out to be terrorists and second-class citizens. An exclusive report by the Washington Examiner states:
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) put the State Department’s Global Engagement Center on blast in a March letter to the agency and demanded an investigation into its $100,000 grant in 2021 to the Global Disinformation Index, which has fed conservative website blacklists to advertisers to defund disfavored speech. The agency issued a response to the congressman on Friday, telling him in a letter obtained by the Washington Examiner that it has no regrets over the taxpayer-backed award…
…As the Washington Examiner has reported since February 2022, the GDI was awarded $100,000 through the government’s U.S.-Paris Tech Challenge, which sought to “advance the development of promising and innovative technologies against disinformation and propaganda across the European Economic Area and the United Kingdom,” according to the Atlantic Council, a think tank that partnered for the challenge.
But it wasn’t just a grant of $100,000. At least $330,000 was received from US-State-Department-related entities, and it’s possible the price tag goes even higher. In another article, the Washington Examiner reported these ties:
The first State Department-backed group that has supported GDI is the National Endowment for Democracy, a nonprofit group that receives nearly all of its funding from annual congressional appropriations.
According to financial statements, the NED received over $300 million from the State Department in 2021. Critics have argued that the endowment, which Congress authorized in 1983, is essentially a government grantmaking body despite its legal status as a private entity.
In 2020, the NED granted $230,000 to the AN Foundation, GDI’s group that also goes by the Disinformation Index Foundation, documents show.
The grant was to “deepen understanding of the challenges to information integrity in the digital space” in Africa , Asia, and other foreign countries, to “assess disinformation risks of local online media ecosystems,” according to the NED, which noted that GDI would compile “risk ratings” for ad companies and others to assess “risks that arise from funding disinformation.”
And that’s not all – further government funding of censorship entities is discussed in the article. Potentially there are millions of dollars granted to organizations that in turn fund censorship groups.
Our own government is wiping its feet on the first amendment as it “stands by” grants that go after those who dissent.
What is GDI?
GDI (Global Disinformation Index) is the group that directly caused The Organic Prepper website to lose a valuable advertising partnership that had been in place for years with no complaints whatsoever. There was no notice – the partnership with AdThrive was severed, and we were offered no recourse to try and maintain the relationship.
This was a loss of thousands of dollars of revenue monthly – revenue that allowed us to publish and offer our products at low or no cost to the readers.
Again from the Examiner:
GDI compiles a “dynamic exclusion list” that it feeds to corporate entities, such as the Microsoft -owned advertising company Xandr, emails show. Xandr and other companies are, in turn, declining to place ads on websites that GDI flags as peddling disinformation.
The Washington Examinerrevealed on Thursday that it is on this exclusion list. The list includes at least 2,000 websites and has “had a significant impact on the advertising revenue that has gone to those sites,” said GDI’s CEO Clare Melford on a March 2022 podcast.
We seem to be on the wrong side of GDI. To be honest, that’s not something that’s cause for shame. I’m glad that a group that believes in silencing anyone who doesn’t just meekly go with the status quo also believes that I’m not one of them.
Here’s what we were told at the time we were defunded.
When we were defunded, it wasn’t really a surprise. We’d received the following announcement two weeks before.
The Global Disinformation Index (GDI) helps advertising companies assess a website’s risk of disinformation and provide a trusted and neutral assessment so brands and ad companies can make informed decisions and avoid funding this content.
We recently became the first ad management service to partner with The Global Disinformation Index to introduce new vetting processes for all sites in the AdThrive community, so that advertisers can spend confidently and be assured they are NOT funding disinformation!
This allows us to pinpoint potentially harmful topics on the site (for example, disinformation, hate speech, racism, derogatory content, and other topics or themes that are not brand safe) and research the content in a more thorough way than before.
We’re also using this system to establish new brand safety processes to periodically review our existing partnerships to ensure our community remains as high-quality as possible. (source)
It was the first time I’d heard of GDI, but I was instantly suspicious.
Many of us ” voiced concern about this high-level censorship of our websites. After all, we’d been working together for years, and it was downright insulting to be “audited” for truthfulness from some outside entity. Our attempts to discuss this fell upon deaf ears. Their decision to align with censors had been made.
Soon, I received the following email.
And that was it.
Just like that, I lost $56,000 of revenue per year, the revenue that had juuuuussst covered my then-operating expenses of $55,000 per year.
The real-world effects of this
It’s been a real struggle to keep afloat. A once-thriving business is now going month-to-month in an effort to pay the massive overhead required to keep us online. That overhead has only gone up with both inflation and attacks on the sites at a server level. Those attacks have been costly to repair and prevent with added security measures. And while suing them would be great, these costs and the halt to my flow of income mean that I could not afford to take legal action, despite clear evidence of defamatory and malicious behavior. I tried, initially, and I quickly went through my entire savings account and never even got to court.
I’ve had to let long-time employees go, and we’re running on a skeleton crew now. We’ve had to dial back how often we post, and it’s a constant cycle of creating products and marketing them to keep things going.
We cannot keep operating without your help. So this weekend, we’re offering two ways to support the site – a site that the Biden administration desperately wants to see go away.
We will keep sharing the information we believe is important for as long as possible. We will keep offering our products on a sliding scale to help our readers who can’t afford to pay more. We are committed to exposing manipulation and corruption and to helping you get prepared and to recognize the threats.
We won’t go down without a fight, and we sincerely appreciate your efforts to help us.
What does it mean when you’re attacked by your own government?
Being attacked and censored by my own government is a very difficult thing to stomach. Not only is it painfully disappointing, it’s also scary.
You look at other writers who have fun afoul of the administration and the attacks they are suffering, like Matt Taibbi’s run-in with the weaponized IRS or Tucker Carlson losing his job under mysterious circumstances (but most likely for exposing the events of January 6th using video footage.)
Meanwhile, the United Nations talks about standing up to those who would silence journalists.
On November 2, the United Nations observed its ninth annual International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. The United Nations established this day in no small part because of the essential role journalists play in healthy and vibrant democracies. Independent reporters hold the powerful accountable for their conduct, their policies, and the results, and help their fellow citizens make informed choices that are untainted by propaganda or misinformation. When reporters are silenced, people are robbed of the information they need to make decisions that affect their lives.
They also note that fifteen American reporters have been murdered since the 90s as a direct result of their investigations.
While the United States may be considered a relatively safe place for journalists, it is not immune from such violence. Jeff German, a Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter covering politics and corruption, was found stabbed to death near his home on September 2. A local government official who was the subject of recent reporting by German was arrested and charged with murdering him days later. German was the 15th journalist to have been killed in the United States since 1992; some have died in particularly infamous incidents, like the four who were killed in a mass shooting at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, in 2018.
But the journalists they have in mind aren’t alternative journalists and bloggers in America. These are legacy and local media who they discuss.
We, however, know the risk we are taking.
You have to wonder how much worse it will get now that the government admits without shame or remorse that it is funding the organizations which are going after us.
* * *
Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books, 12 self-published books, and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses at SelfRelianceand Survival.com