GDI Urged Ad Companies to Drop Outlets Alleging COVID Lab Leak

March 2nd, 2023 3:10 PM

The Global Disinformation Index (GDI) reportedly urged ad companies to drop conservative news sites promoting the COVID-19 "lab leak" theory in 2020.

Investigative reporter Gabe Kaminsky at the Washington Examiner reported this week that GDI, a U.K. group affiliated with two nonprofit organizations in the United States, "repeatedly applied pressure on companies to cut ties with websites promoting the once alleged right-wing "conspiracy" that COVID-19 emerged from a lab." Until recently, the State Department-backed National Endowment for Democracy helped fund GDI. 

Justin Goodman, senior vice president for advocacy and public policy at federal spending watchdog White Coat Waste Project, outlined for The Examiner just how sinister it was for GDI to attempt to demonetize these sites. "[I]n early 2020, before a pandemic was even declared and any investigation had taken place, GDI was apparently using U.S. taxpayers' money to gaslight the public by labeling the lab leak a 'conspiracy theory' and seeking to censor and demonetize media outlets reporting on it," he said.

In a February 2020 report on “disinformation” about COVID-19, the group slammed Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) for suggesting that COVID-19 originated from a lab. 

"By broadcasting the Senator’s words to a national audience, this debunked conspiracy theory is given authority, validation and amplification," the GDI report read.

Just a month later, GDI released a report titled, "Why is Ad Tech Funding These Ads on Coronavirus Conspiracy Sites?" 

The March report criticized Google for "providing ad revenue streams to known disinformation sites peddling coronavirus conspiracies." 

In April 2020, GDI attacked former President Donald Trump for launching a government investigation into the “lab leak” theory. GDI alleged that Trump "triggered a second wave of conspiracy lab theories on known disinformation sites.”

"All these lab conspiracy theories have been fact checked and proven untrue," GDI said in the report, including a link to a BBC article discrediting the “lab leak” theory. "The BBC recently debunked evidence of the Wuhan lab conspiracy by breaking down the timeline of events, the protocols in place to protect researchers and civilians from pathogens, and evaluations of [the] lab in Wuhan by U.S. officials."

GDI further claimed that the Right was orchestrating a “disinformation” campaign during the pandemic: "As GDI consistently has argued, disinformation spreads across networks and starts out on the fringe, before moving into the mainstream. The case of the Wuhan lab conspiracy clearly shows this phenomenon."

A report from the Wall Street Journal published last week indicates that the Department of Energy determined that the spread of COVID-19 “most likely” originated from a lab leak. The FBI concurred with this assessment and said the bureau has "moderate confidence" that the “lab leak” theory is correct.

Goodman went so far as to say that the group was actually responsible for spreading “disinformation,” not the publications it targeted.

"GDI’s own content on the lab leak perfectly fits its own definition of 'disinformation,'" Goodman told The Examiner. "A growing majority of taxpayers, scientists around the world, lawmakers, and even the Biden Administration’s FBI and Energy Department agree that dangerous animal experiments at the NIH-funded Wuhan lab caused COVID."

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