Need for more: Microsoft suspends ties with group blacklisting conservative media outlets

Microsoft is suspending its subscription to the Global Disinformation Index (GDI), a tracking group that exists “to disrupt online disinformation” by compiling a “blacklist” of conservative media outlets.

Xandr, a Microsoft-owned advertising company, has been using a “blacklist” of conservative websites compiled by GDI to avoid spending its advertising on sites that it deems to be peddlers of “disinformation,” the Washington Examiner reports.

According to its website, GDI “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. Often these narratives are crafted using selected elements of fact,” the group states.

When it comes across such threats to “democratic institutions,” it attempts to “remove the financial incentive to create” content that goes against the accepted narratives by placing them on a list so potential advertisers will avoid them, essentially strangling any outlet they don’t like into starvation.

Blacklisted outlets include the American Spectator, Newsmax, the Federalist, the American Conservative, One America News Network, the Blaze, the Daily Wire, RealClearPolitics, Reason, and the New York Post, according to the Washington Examiner, which also made the list.

But by adhering to GDI’s list, Xandr discovered advertisers could no longer reach their readers.

“In this case, Xandr prevented us from talking to our voters in the critical days leading up to Election Day,” an ad industry executive previously told the Washington Examiner. “Our audience reads the Examiner, Daily Wire, Townhall, etc. Voters go to these news & opinion sites [to] inform their decisions. And if Microsoft is using their technology to block us from showing ads on these websites, they’re actively preventing us from talking to voters on the public squares where their decisions are being informed.”

So now, Microsoft is back pedaling.

“We try to take a principled approach to accuracy and fighting foreign propaganda,” a spokesperson told the Examiner on Saturday. “We’re working quickly to fix the issue and Xandr has stopped using GDI’s services while we are doing a larger review.”

But don’t for a second believe that the company is changing its oppressive views on free speech.

The company is partnered with NewsGuard, a group that does the same thing as GDI.

NewsGuard charges online users a subscription fee to download its desktop browser extension that will tell readers how reliable online news outlets are, giving them a numerical score and marking them with either a green checkmark or branding them with a red “X.”

NewsGuard then compiles its own list of blacklisted outlets — an overwhelmingly conservative list — and warns advertisers to avoid them like the plague.

In 2020, the browser extension became free for all Microsoft Edge users.

On its homepage, NewsGuard proudly lists Microsoft and Microsoft Education as two of its partners, alongside the U.S. Department of State, the Department of Defense, and the World Health Organization.

And if these end-runs around the First Amendment aren’t enough to make your head explode, consider that GDI, which has blacklisted an estimated 2,000 websites, receives funding from the State Department.

On Saturday, several watchdog groups, including taxpayer watchdog OpenTheBooks, expressed their concerns over the State Department’s backing of GDI.

“Nothing is more Soviet than using federal government funding to control speech by choking an independent press,” Adam Andrzejewski, CEO of OpenTheBooks, told the Washington Examiner. “The federal government is continuing to put its own thumb on the scale to green-light or red-light content in the marketplace of ideas. Using third-party intermediaries to do the dirty work isn’t fooling anyone.”


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Melissa Fine


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