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Chairman Williams, Rep. Van Duyne Write to GEC to Further Investigation into Censorship

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, Congressman Roger Williams (TX-25), Chairman of the House Committee on Small Business, along with Congresswoman Beth Van Duyne (TX-24), Chairman of the Small Business Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Regulations, wrote to the State Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC) to further investigate government censorship and revenue interference of American small businesses by proxy.

The Committee continues to investigate government-interference in small businesses’ ability to compete online because of their lawful speech. The State Department has failed to provide the information requested by the Committee nearly one year ago. In an attempt to facilitate forward progress, the Committee scoped down the requests to certain entities at issue and asked for specific pertinent documents that led to their funding. The Committee hopes this will result in a prompt response.


Read the full letter here.

Read excerpts from the letter below:

“The Committee on Small Business, Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Regulations (Committee) writes to further its investigation into government censorship and revenue interference of American small businesses by proxy. It is clear that the Global Engagement Center (GEC) funded third parties who acted to censor and interfere with the revenue of certain small businesses (and their owners) based on their lawful speech. These third parties pressure advertising and social media companies to remove certain businesses’ online advertisements, disallow ad placement on businesses’ websites, remove online speech, and ban accounts entirely. The federal government cannot circumvent constitutional protections by using private actors to accomplish what the State itself is prohibited from doing.

“Throughout the course of this Committee’s investigation it has become clear the GEC has funded many entities, directly and indirectly, who interfere with the ability of American small businesses to compete online because of their speech—including over $1.9 million to the Atlantic Council, and over $215,000 to its Digital Forensics Research Lab (DFRLab) since FY 2018 alone. In FY 2018 the GEC provided NewsGuard with a subaward of $50,000 and the Global Disinformation Index (GDI) with a subaward of $100,000; both companies’ missions are to starve supposed purveyors of “disinformation” of revenue and put them out of business. Their work is focused mostly on American businesses. Further, in FY 2021, [Redacted Entity], whose product is ‘designed to starve disinformation purveyors of money by building on GDI’s pioneering methodology’ received a direct award for approximately $348,113 and a subaward for $536,015. Further, in one funding application, [Redacted Entity] stated that ‘Russia is seeding disinformation amongst African audiences as a backdoor to influence African Americans and other constituencies in the U.S.’ This provides insight into the GEC’s funding activities that, on its face, appear to comply with GEC’s strictly international mandate, but in fact have a tangible impact on Americans.

“During the Committee’s April 4, 2024 briefing with GEC Grant Officer Representatives (GORs), they stated that before any GEC award is granted, programmatic and organizational due diligence is performed on each potential awardee to inspect financial, ownership, and other aspects of each entity. The GORs claimed this due diligence is also performed for subawardees. This assurance did little to assuage our concerns as the evidence collected by the Committee thus far shows these so-called risk assessments and due diligence are insufficient to ensure Americans are not impacted by GEC’s activity.”