Your tax dollars at work

Government efforts to squelch purported misinformation and disinformation on the most contested subjects in American politics don’t stop with Cabinet-level agencies.

The National Science Foundation has awarded at least $39 million in grants and contracts in fiscal years 2021 and 2022 for projects that target misinformation or disinformation, frequently pertaining to COVID-19 and elections.

Two contracts went to anti-misinformation groups for journalists. Hacks/Hackers received $3.7 million with the potential for $2 million more for “expert-informed resources … to address vaccine hesitancy and misinformation.”

Meedan received a $3.2 million contract with the potential for $2.5 million more to develop “fact-checker” and “community collaboration tools” for “combating hate, abuse, and misinformation with minority led partnerships.” It also received a $256,000 grant for “identifying and countering misinformation on closed messaging platforms (COVID-19).”

Both received $5 million grants in the new fiscal year from NSF’s Convergence Accelerator, which “builds upon basic research and discovery to accelerate solutions toward societal impact.”

Ten FY 2021 and 2022 grants directly reference the accelerator’s Track F, also known as “Trust & Authenticity in Communication Systems.” The largest grant recipients all have Track F awards, including: State University of New York ($4.3 million), George Washington University ($4 million), University of Wisconsin ($3.8 million) and University of Washington ($3.5 million).

GWU, a few blocks from the White House, even received $200,000 to “study how populist politicians distorted COVID-19 pandemic health communication” to increase distrust and make citizens “more vulnerable to misinformation generally.” The research will probe “how best to counter these populist narratives” in the U.S., Brazil, Poland and Serbia.

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