Texas Senator Ted Cruz Probes Federal Officials Over Taxpayer Funding of “Misinformation” Policies
Towards the end of October, Texas Senator Ted Cruz called on the National Science Foundation (NSF) to demonstrate that the tens of millions of dollars it spent on fighting “misinformation” were not used to violate legal speech, per materials acquired by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Cruz identified 105 grants doled out between 2021 and 2023, which totaled $66 million, with the goal at improving organizations’, at times government entities, ability to identify and correct “misinformation.” The senator submitted several questions to NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan, calling on him to either show that the grants flagged comply with the First Amendment or, if they’re not, to “indicate whether [he] will reevaluate and possibly rescind the award.”
“When you’re funding others who are engaged in censorship, you’re undermining support for your very important agency,” Cruz told Panchanathan at an Oct. 4 hearing. Panchanathan countered Cruz’s inquiry by arguing that the NSF does not engage in censorship of individuals or work with groups that carry out censorship.
“I want to say one thing very categorically, we do not—NSF does not engage in censorship. We do not regulate any content and engage with anybody who also does so,” Panchanathan declared at the hearing. Cruz declared that his analysis of NSF grants “directly contradicts [Panchanathan’s] claim that NSF does not work with anybody who “regulates content” as the “NSF has funded over 100 academic projects that are aimed at supposedly reducing ‘mis-, dis-, and mal-information,’ much of which is simply content that the progressive left does not agree with.”
One grant to the University of Wisconsin for $5 million that Cruz called attention to had the goal of creating a “digital dashboard” that “election administration officials” or “public health organizations” could use in order to “identify trending misinformation networks on social media platforms” and “strategically correct misinformation.”
The NSF granted an additional $5 million to the University of Washington to “provide the public with skills for determining the truthfulness of claims” and “resources for addressing the social and emotional impacts of misinformation” while also crafting and carrying out “a socio-technical platform that supports digital literacy interventionists.”
Two other grants Cruz brought attention to included $441,200 to the University of Utah and $396,000 to New York University. These grants were issued ostensively “to transform the efficiency, effectiveness, and scale of fact-checking … enabl[ing] fact-checkers to spot misinformation early, prioritize effort, and unify the various tools and techniques used for fact-checking.”
Another grant that Cruz identified was a $16,014 handout to the University of Oklahoma, which was awarded to develop “a software platform that may be integrated into crisis management systems such as public health (WHO, CDC), emergency management (FEMA), and transportation (DOT) agencies to facilitate the transmission of correct information and provide the option to notify social media providers of identified misinformation.”
Cruz called on the NSF to state whether it believes grants of this nature are “consistent with the First Amendment.”
“By doling out tens of millions of dollars to third parties who seek to censor constitutionally protected speech, the National Science Foundation has been repeatedly infringing on Americans’ First Amendment rights,” a Republican Commerce Committee spokesperson said to the DCNF. “The NSF should immediately halt all grants aiding in efforts to trample over Americans’ right to free speech.”
Cruz also questioned the NSF about a $5 million grant to George Washington University that supposedly provided psychological care to journalists who allege they are the victims of “misinformation-driven harassment campaigns.” Cruz caller on the agency to “explain in detail how this award advances the NSF’s statutory mission ‘to promote the progress of science.’”
The DC permanent bureaucracy presents a major threat to traditional American liberties. The unelected agents of this bureaucracy know full well they can get away with all manner of tyranny without facing any form of democratic accountability.
To stop such abuses of power will require the election of a new class of leaders who will work indefatigably to defund the DC swamp and restore order.