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Jim Jordan Is Now Going after Disinformation Researchers

With so much disinformation being pushed out these days, including out-and-out lies from many politicians—far more than in the past—there is a small cottage industry in studying the disinformation and the people who put it out. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), a major source of disinformation (or maybe malinformation in his case), doesn't like all these amateur fact checkers mucking around and trying to discredit the disinformers. Oh, and he doesn't like people attacking medical misinformation either. Consequently he introduced the "Freedom to Lie Act" to the House. OK, he didn't, but since we are discussing disinformation here we were just doing a little field work.

One of the goals of Jordan and others going after disinformation researchers is to bombard them with lawsuits and subpoenas in an attempt to frighten them into self-censorship. It may be working. Due to legal threats, the NIH just froze a $150 million program intended to communicate medical information. Not only were grants relating to vaccines frozen, but also "noncontroversial" programs, like those about nutrition. But in reality, nothing is "noncontroversial" anymore. A program telling people not to eat candy bars for breakfast, pretzels for lunch, and potato chips for dinner would instantly be hit with lawsuits from the candy bar, pretzel, and potato chip industries. And Jordan would chime right in saying that the Big Bad Government has no business trying to destroy those patriotic American industries.

Academics and scientists say that Jordan's campaign is successfully throttling years-long efforts at studying disinformation, some of which go back to Russian interference in the 2016 election. The situation has recently gotten much worse with most of the larger social media platforms ceasing to censor any posts, no matter how false or outrageous, because conservatives like Jordan really want the freedom to lie and also the freedom from being called out about the lies. The former is probably guaranteed by the Constitution but the latter is novel.

Cases are getting to the courts. The Biden administration asked the big tech companies to remove posts containing lies about COVID-19, lies which could endanger people's lives. Their response was to sue the administration. The case, Missouri v. Biden is now before the Supreme Court. The administration wants the Court to reverse the Fifth Circuit's decision that the White House violated the First Amendment by telling companies to remove false posts about COVID-19 and the 2020 election. It is arguing that even the president has a right to free speech, and that includes telling companies what he thinks they should do in order to advance the public interest.

Separate from this lawsuit, Jordan has sent out numerous subpoenas demanding that academic researchers turn over all manner of information on their work and also all their communications with government and company officials. Jen Jones, the program director at the Center for Science and Democracy said: "This effort is clearly intended to deter researchers from pursuing these studies and penalize them for their findings."

Jordan isn't the only one on the attack. Elon Musk has sued the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate. If he can sue them into oblivion, that solves the problem of their exposing all the hate on Twitter (X). (V)

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