America First Legal’s Lawsuit Against the State Department Exposes a Secret List of Journalists Pushing Propaganda on Behalf of the U.S. Government

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, America First Legal (AFL) released a bombshell thread on the 11 “journalists” who decide what the American people get to see online. Read the thread below or access the full thread on Twitter here.

1/ EXPOSED — A secret list of journalists pushing propaganda on behalf of the US govt has been revealed as a result of our litigation against the State Dept to uncover the dark truth about the Global Engagement Center (GEC). Read on to see the secret list below:

​​2/ We obtained more documents from our lawsuit against the State Department about the GEC, exposing the international censorship czars. Meet the 11 “journalists” who decide what you can see online.

3/ Key Takeaway: The global cabal of “fact-checkers” do not appear to be the benevolent truth-seekers they say. They appear to be highly ideological activists, affiliated through the Poynter network, backed by the same money to say the same thing.

4/ Their claim of independence is farcical. Independent means free from the influence of others. But as we will see, all fact checkers claim the credential of IFCN, a Poynter-backed organization that gives them their ‘legitimacy’ to influence content moderation online.

5/ FACT CHECK – CLAIM: “fact-checkers are independent” = FALSE

Follow along as we expose the charade of “independence”

6/ First up, meet Angie Holan, editor-in-chief of @PolitiFact. She’s been involved with this area since PolitiFact’s launch in 2007 and she won a Pulitzer in 2009. She is deeply intertwined in the Poynter network and lectures and teaches others the ways of censorship.

7/ As AFL has previously shown, @Poynter runs PolitiFact and @factchecknet, which was initially funded by the Department of State-funded National Endowment for Democracy, the Omidyar Network, Google, Facebook, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, per @Jacob__Siegel.

8/ In @mtaibbi Report on Censorship Industrial Complex, @Poynter is #8 on the list of top 50 organizations to know. There he reports that in an election slack, the FBI asked about two tweets, and a Twitter trust and safety staffer cites Politifact as the authority for striking a piece of content, writing: “This is proven to be false via this.” #TwitterFiles

9/ Next, meet Ana Brakus, Exec. Director and journalist at the Croatian outlet Faktograf. Per the POINT Conference, her main field of investigative interest is the “ultraconservative political and civic movement.”

10/ Faktograf calls itself a nonprofit for good journalism, critical thinking, and an informed public. But it models itself after Politifact! And per its own website, its “launch … was financially supported by the @NED and @StateDept”

11/ And Faktograf is so committed to an informed public and critical thinking that in 2021 Brakus called for more authority to censor political leaders.

12/ She told Poynter that “fact checkers should be allowed to fact check politicians” and that censorship bodies need more staffing to “moderate” and “enforce” speech from people like Former President Trump

13/ But while Ana seems to think she should have a say in what you can see online, she doesn’t appreciate being questioned. If you question fact-checkers, her organization says you are harassing or promoting violence.

14/ “With this research, we wanted to better understand what the wider fact-checking community faces, as well as how politically exposed persons use and fuel harassment that we are faced with. Sadly, it has become obvious that our experiences at Faktograf are not unique, and that harassment is a common occurrence in the fact-checking community,” said Brakus

15/ Catch Ana this week @PointConference speaking on “invisible harassment: the perspective of fact-checkers and women” after panels on censoring podcasts and YouTube, the green internet, and innovations in fighting disinformation

16/ Third, Barbara Whitaker @barbwhitAP is an editor for the Associated Press. The AP is a wire service, meaning, what they print is reproduced and delivered as news by outlets around the world.

The AP claims:

17/ But the Fact Check section reads like the talking points of a left-wing policy shop.

18/ And as we uncovered in our previous thread, AP’s funding from the State Department calls its true independence into question.

19/ Up next is Gülin Çavuş. @gulincav is the editor-in-chief of Teyit, a Turkish fact-checking platform. After going through the American higher education system, Gülin ended up in journalism.

20/ After ‘reporting’ on ‘misinformation problems about refugees’ in 2016, she came on Poynter’s radar and won an IFCN fellowship in 2017. She is now the EIC for a Poynter-credentialed fact-check site with an outsized influence on what content is “moderated”

21/ But Gülin’s contempt for people who don’t think like her is palpable. In Dec. 2020, for instance, she wrote a story born out of a conversation with a taxi driver, lamenting how a lack of critical thinking leads people to believe conspiracy theories.

Her solution: let her tell you what to think and believe.

22/ In 2018, she called for a global database of false news about refugees so she could control the global narrative migration trends.

23/ Where does a 30-something journalist in Turkey get the authority to control what people in the United States, and in other countries around the world, can and cannot see on social media platforms?

24/ And seemingly like so many of her peers, what is Gülin’s solution to ‘misinformation’? More censorship and more control.

25/ Next, meet Jency Jacob @jencyjac the managing editor of BOOM and serving as the arbiter of truth Indian media market, and pushing the fact-checking paradigm into Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, among other places.

26/ Jency complains that President Trump called the Washington Post “fake news” but his solution is to do exactly what he is criticizing President Trump for—call the other side wrong with no supporting evidence.

27/ Next is Maarten Schenk, developer of a software technology that allows the internet overlords to detect trending content online. Schenk appears to see it as his job to tell you what is true and what is false.

28/ Schenk hates conservatives and their viewpoints, routinely mocking any conservative on his own twitter feed. @mschenk

29/ Schenk, too, appears to be funded or supported, in part, by the State Department

30/ Next, meet Pablo Fernandez @fernandezpm founder and Executive Director of Chequeado, an Argentinian fact-checking organization

31/ Pablo recently argued that fact-checking the internet is necessary so that AI applications, like ChatGPT, give users the “correct” answers. Pablo apparently doesn’t think users are smart enough to discern the credibility of information for themselves and must rely on him, and his peers, to be told what is correct. 

32/ Rabiu Alhassan @alrabiu runs GhanaFact, Ghana’s version of the U.S.-based PolitiFact, backed by and adhering to the Poynter Institute model of censorship.

33/ Rabiu appears to be a censorship fiend. Not only does he want to control the information you can see online, he appears to think that he should be able to censor your family group chat if it takes place on WhatsApp

34/ Rabiu also supports using the weight of government to force private companies, like Twitter, to adopt specific policies requiring the removal of what he and his colleagues determine is “misinformation”

35/ After graduating from the Mundus Journalism program in London, Rabiu started GhanaFact in 2019. Poyter’s financial forms show that in 2020 and 2021, they granted nearly $300,000 to “sub-Saharan Africa” for disinformation. But GhanaFact and FactSpace West Africa (Ghana’s partnership with Gambia) appear to be the only Poynter-affiliated organizations in sub-Saharan Africa.

36/ Rabiu has no apparent expertise in anything, but after spending time in the London censorship world, he moved to Ghana and, within two years, received $300,000 from Poynter. He now flies around the world, attending conferences and promoting censorship.

37/ Next, Ellen Tordesillas @tordesillas co-founder and “fact checker” at Vera Files, a Philippines-based media outlet.

38/ Ellen appears to have been working with Facebook since 2018 to remove political content from Facebook in the Philippines

39/ Finally, meet Thanos Sitistas @epachtitis the editor of Ellnika Hoaxes.

40/ Thanos seems to think his fellow Greeks are “pretty prone to believe fake news,” and so he has taken it upon himself to censor anything he disagrees with. His favorite justification appears to be saying it comes from the “far-right”

41/ This is very similar to a claim by @gulincav in 2018. Each of them says that their home population, the people they censor the most, are those most vulnerable to ‘misinformation.’

42/ Last year, Thanos sat on a panel hosted by the EU DisinfoLab called “Disinformation and Dangerous Speech: A View from the Front Lines.” Like many other fact-checkers, he calls the speech he disagrees with “dangerous” and labels anyone who protests violent or threatening.

43/ You can also find Thanos next week moderating panels such as “How to spin an invasion?” and “How can the Balkans use the EU toolbox”

44./ Find all of our document productions on @StateDept GEC here

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