Combating “Skepticism”: Federal Grant Funds New Effort to Combat “Misinformation”

We have been discussing a comprehensive effort by the Biden Administration to blacklist or censor citizens accused of “disinformation” or “misinformation.” This effort includes dozens of FBI agents and other agency employees who worked with social media companies to bar or suspend accounts.  It also included grants to academic and third party organizations to create blacklists or pressure advertisers to withdrew support for conservative sites. Now, another such grant through the National Science Foundation has been identified, which gave millions to professors to develop a misinformation fact-checking tool called “Course Correct.” The tool will help fight “skepticism” and reinforce “trust” in what the government and the programmers define as true or reliable viewpoints.

The National Science Foundation reportedly awarded grants in 2021 and 2022 for more than $5.7 million for the development of Course Correct to allow media and government officials to target misinformation on topics such as U.S. elections and COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy. In addition, a Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act-funded NSF grant supported the application of Course Correct to mental health issues.

The system would use machine learning and other means to identify social media posts pertaining to electoral skepticism and vaccine hesitancy, including flagging at-risk online communities for intervention. Sound familiar?

This is very similar to the effort on the other grants through offices like the State Department’s Global Engagement Center and the National Endowment for Democracy.

Democrats have opposed efforts to investigate the full scope of censorship and blacklisting efforts by the federal government. However, it appears that there are a wide array of such grants targeting free speech under the guise of combating what researchers view as “disinformation” or “misinformation.” Those words are usually ill-defined and have repeatedly been found to shield bias on the part of the researchers.

In the case of the the British-based Global Disinformation Index (GDI), the results were the targeting of ten conservative and libertarian sites as the most dangerous sources of disinformation. It then sought to persuade advertisers to withdraw support for those sites, while listing their most liberal counterparts as among the most trustworthy.

The latest grant is being conducted by Michael Wagner of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Sijia Yang of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Porismita Borah of Washington State University’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, Srijan Kumar of Georgia Tech’s College of Computing, and Munmun De Choudhury of Georgia Tech’s School of Interactive Computing.

The grant abstract echoes the earlier work in warning that social media serves “as a major source of delegitimizing information about elections and vaccines, with networks of users actively sowing doubts about election integrity and vaccine efficacy, fueling the spread of misinformation.”

Of course, many of the scientists and groups who were previously suspended for disinformation in these areas were ultimately vindicated. The mask mandate and other pandemic measures like the closing of schools are now cited as fueling emotional and developmental problems in children. The closing of schools and businesses was challenged by some critics as unnecessary. Many of those critics were also censored. It now appears that they may have been right. Many countries did not close schools and did not experience increases in Covid. However, we are now facing alarming drops in testing scores and alarming rises in medical illness among the young.

The point is only that there were countervailing indicators on mask efficacy and a basis to question the mandates. Yet, there was no real debate because of the censorship supported by many Democratic leaders in social media. To question such mandates was declared a public health threat. The head of the World Health Organization even supported censorship to combat what he called an “infodemic.”

A lawsuit was filed by Missouri and Louisiana and joined by leading experts, including Drs. Jayanta Bhattacharya (Stanford University) and Martin Kulldorff (Harvard University). Bhattacharya previously objected to the suspension of Dr. Clare Craig after she raised concerns about Pfizer trial documents. Those doctors were the co-authors of the Great Barrington Declaration, which advocated for a more focused Covid response that targeted the most vulnerable population rather than widespread lockdowns and mandates. Many are now questioning the efficacy and cost of the massive lockdown as well as the real value of masks or the rejection of natural immunities as an alternative to vaccination.  Yet, these experts and others were attacked for such views just a year ago. Some found themselves censored on social media for challenging claims of Dr. Fauci and others.

The media has quietly acknowledged the science questioning mask efficacy and school closures without addressing its own role in attacking those who raised these objections. Even raising the lab theory on the origin of Covid 19 (a theory now treated as plausible) was denounced as a conspiracy theory. The science and health reporter for the New York Times, Apoorva Mandavilli,  even denounced the theory as “racist.” In the meantime, California has moved to potentially strip doctors of their licenses for spreading dissenting views on Covid.

Censorship is now embraced even when the underlying information is true. In another recently disclosed disinformation project at Stanford University, experts insisted that even true stories could still be dangerous forms of disinformation if they contributed to “hesitancy” on vaccines or other issues.

As in these prior grants, it is not clear what Course Correct specifically defines “verifiably accurate information.” When pressed by the conservative site The College Fix, researchers reportedly failed to supply an answer. What constitutes “misinformation” depends on the views of the programmers. Yet, these systems are sold as somehow transcending bias and using science to protect us from our own bad ideas or biases.

Recently, we discussed the call of Bill Gates to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to protect us from harmful thoughts or idea. In an interview on a German program, “Handelsblatt Disrupt,” Gates called for unleashing AI to stop certain views from being “magnified by digital channels.” The problem is that we allow “various conspiracy theories like QAnon or whatever to be blasted out by people who wanted to believe those things.”

Gates added that AI can combat “political polarization” by checking “confirmation bias.”

Confirmation bias is a term long used to describe the tendency of people to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms their own beliefs. It is now being used to dismiss those with opposing views as ignorant slobs dragging their knuckles across the internet — people endangering us all by failing to accept the logic behind policies on COVID, climate change or a host of other political issues.

This is not the first call for AI overlords to protect us from ourselves. Last September, Gates gave the keynote address at the Forbes 400 Summit on Philanthropy. He told his fellow billionaires that “polarization and lack of trust is a problem.”

The problem is again … well … people: “People seek simple solutions [and] the truth is kind of boring sometimes.”

Not AI, of course. That would supply the solutions. Otherwise, Gates suggested, we could all die: “Political polarization may bring it all to an end, we’re going to have a hung election and a civil war.”

Others have suggested a Brave New World where citizens will be carefully guided in what they read and see. Democratic leaders have called for enlightened algorithms to frame what citizens access on the internet. In 2021, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) objected that people were not listening to the informed views of herself and leading experts. Instead, they were reading views of skeptics by searching Amazon and finding books by “prominent spreaders of misinformation.”

Warren blamed Amazon for failing to limit searches or choices: “This pattern and practice of misbehavior suggests that Amazon is either unwilling or unable to modify its business practices to prevent the spread of falsehoods or the sale of inappropriate products.” In her letter, Warren gave the company 14 days to change its algorithms to throttle and obstruct efforts to read opposing views.

The priority for the House should be to establish the full range of these grants by the Administration in the development of blacklisting or censorship tools. That should be in addition to the effort to gauge the direct work of federal employees in censorship efforts at companies like Twitter. We can debate the wisdom or risks of such work, but we should first have transparency on the full scope of censorship efforts by the federal government, including the use of academic and third-party organizations.

65 thoughts on “Combating “Skepticism”: Federal Grant Funds New Effort to Combat “Misinformation””

  1. As I read all there posts, it is obvious the sentient among us all sense we are losing, but what are the neutered to do? The nation is frozen in law-fare. We citizens have but one vote in an ocean of votes, guaranteed to be legitimate by the winners!

    1. The article says that there has been too much misinformation and disinformation. That can happen on either side, but the proven disinformation and misinformation comes from the left.

      ATS is a leading provider of misinformation and disinformation. He also provides a lot of links he doesn’t seem to understand.

  2. Professor Turley is all about free speech now. 3 years ago we weren’t allowed to talk about certain drugs and certain theories about Covid nor were we allowed to say that sticking an experimental product in your arm that could never, ever be removed and for which ZERO legal liability exists, was sheer folly. Furthermore as far as I know we are still not allowed to question the 2020 elections on this forum. Personally, I’m getting a little tired of waiting for the slow kids to catch up while the country goes over the cliff and the censors lick their pencils in delight.

    1. “Furthermore as far as I know we are still not allowed to question the 2020 elections on this forum.”

      I do.

    2. I have questioned the prosecution of Officer Chauvin, masks, the vaccine and the election here with no problem. Whoever debolucia is, he is misinformed. Perhaps he thinks he is on Rachel Maddows site.

    3. deboluccia:

      You must be mistaken. The topics you mentioned are indeed discussed here without interference.

      The WordPress filter will not allow a post that contains 3 or more links, or profanity.

  3. This is from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Does this sound familiar? Biden/Dems/progressives have taken an example from history.

    “When the Nazis took over the German Government Adolf Hitler informed Joseph Goebbels that he intended to make Goebbels director of a new propaganda ministry. Goebbels soon envisioned an empire that would control schools, universities, film, radio, and propaganda. ‘The national education of the German people,’he wrote, ‘will be placed in my hands.’” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

    “Hitler retained propaganda offices that fell under others’ control, including those of the ministries of Foreign Affairs and of Education. Even in the realm of culture and the arts, Goebbels’s authority was far from absolute; Hitler, Nazi leader Hermann Göring, ideologue Alfred Rosenberg, and others created their own separate areas.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

    Sound familiar? Gee I wonder where I’ve heard similar phrases? Now I remember Biden and the Dems/libs/progressive party’s (in 1930s Germany they were known as the “National Socialist German Worker’s Party) “Disinformation Governance Board” headed by Joseph Goebbels. Sorry, my bust, I mean Nina Jankowicz impersonating Joseph Goebbels.

    The “Disinformation Board” may have gone away, but not the attempts to control speech the Dems/libs/progressives don’t like, i.e., anything that goes against their narrative.

    Disinformation and misinformation is in the eye of the beholder. One persons “truth” is another persons “disinformation or misinformation.”

    The decision of which is “truth” or which is “disinformation or misinformation,” belongs to the individual, not the government. United States v. Schwimmer, 279 U. S. 644, 655; Matal v. Tam 582 U.S. ___ (2017).

    1. Maj229,
      Well now, that was chilling.
      Thank you for bringing that to our attention.
      Back in 2016/17, I would hear people wailing about the parallels to 1930s Germany.
      Yet, now they are silence.
      Or, worse, cheering these parallels on gleefully.

      1. Chilling is putting it mildly. History is no long taught unless it’s “approved or distorted history.”

        1. “The 1619 Project”

          The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.

          Behind the Scenes of 1619

          Since January, The Times Magazine has been working on an issue to mark the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved people arriving in America.

          For teachers

          Looking for ways to use this issue in your classroom? You can find curriculums, guides and activities for students developed by the Pulitzer Center at And it’s all free!

          – New York Times Magazine

    2. @Maj

      Indeed, thank you. This is stuff a great many of us simply do not believe is happening. As I’ve said, my own brother is one, and he is absolutely an otherwise intelligent and caring person. But he believes the lies. Fully and completely. Unlike during the Civil War, he would react instantaneously if any of it managed to touch him, but I don’t know how that happens in the modern and hermetically sealed bubbles many of us live inside of every day. It’s all just theoretical to a lot of us so long as our credit cards still work and Wal-Mart is still open after 9 PM.

    3. Thank you, Maj. This is a wonderful explanation of what is happening today. The leftists on the blog fail to see the parallels. I can only see WW2 with the troops entering a camp and saving the life of an already comatose individual. Thank you to all those that have served.

  4. “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

    – Declaration of Independence, 1776

  5. I can understand why government officials want to shut little boogers like me up. I wish I had a tool with which I could shut my critics up. The thing I don’t understand are the average “Trump was worse” critics who cheer the means with which these officials do it. “Well, Glenn Beck, Breitbart, and Fox News are wrong, and they’re corrupt.” My answer is the cliche, “You might disagree with them, but you should fight for their right to be wrong.” If I were of the extremist left, I might worry if these tactics were used by the next Republican, though I think we all know those tactics would be exposed for what they are, in the, “Now that this doesn’t do any harm to Democrats, we will now acknowledge that Biden did it, but THIS, this is so much worse.”

    1. “I might worry if these tactics were used by the next Republican . . .”

      You are assuming that they have the ability or desire to project the future. Like all those who throw a temper tantrum, they have one concern: The now.

  6. This is a government censorship scheme to silence critics, contrary to the First Amendment, and overreach.

    Those who support it would be outraged if their own opinions were censored in a similar fashion.

  7. When the government told us outdoor church gatherings were dangerous Covid super-spreader events that must be stopped and weeks later said that BLM riots were perfectly safe, they lost any chance I would believe anything from them ever again.

    When they said a pregnant woman should never have a glass of wine or be exposed to second-hand smoke but she should have multiple injections of an experimental substance that has a growing record of injuries, I wondered why anyone would believe anything form them ever again.

    I used to assume they were telling the truth [or part of it] and now I assume they are lying. Now I only wonder who the lie is supposed to hurt and who the lie is supposed to benefit.

    No wonder they want to strangle any competing information.

  8. MARCH 22, 1933
    90 years ago
    Dachau concentration camp opens near Munich
    First prisoners were political prisoners–many journalists–who were accused of anti-Nazi propaganda activities.
    The rest is history that most choose to forget.

    Censorship, demonization of opposing opinions, and scapegoating are the first dominos to fall.

  9. Just remember. They told you that there was no shadow banning going on at Twitter but now they tell you that there should be more of it. It’s what they do. First they deny that it’s happening and then once it is proven that it is happening they defend what they say was not happening. Why is it necessary to defend it if it wasn’t happening in the first place? The same tactic is has been used on CRT and defunding the police. Its the Bart Simpson defense. “I didn’t do it. Nobody saw me do it. You can’t prove a thing.” In the Shawshank Redemption none of the convicts would ever admit that he did indeed do the deed. It was a running joke. Deny first and then when caught defend.

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