The MRC Censorship Investigation Project has uncovered the Biden administration’s latest effort to silence Americans. Utilizing FOIA, state public records laws and other investigative tools, MRC has learned that the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security have funded a censorship effort that trains teachers to “inoculate” students against conservative ideas and American ideals. It also trains educators to turn children into activists and to use censorship tools in classrooms across the nation.
This report details how the State Department began this censorship push through a year-long series of seminars coordinated by the University of Rhode Island and its German counterpart. These seminars commenced in June of 2021 and concluded in April of 2022. Part 2 of this report will detail how the Department of Homeland Security took over the administration of this endeavor and expanded it nationwide.
The State Department trained educators on how to “inoculate” students against ideas not approved by the left. Over 700 educators participated in a year-long series of State Department seminars hosted by the University of Rhode Island’s Media Education Lab (the “Rhode Island Lab”). These seminars provided tools to train teachers on how to censor speech. Examples include video games designed to entice children to embrace leftist narratives and to compel them to use tech platforms that collude with the government to surveil and censor.
The State Department seminars detailed how to put censorship tools Ad Fontes and NewsGuard into American classrooms. The Media Research Center has already detailed how both Ad Fontes and NewsGuard partner with Big Tech to divert people away from conservative media and to media that promote a left-wing agenda. The State Department pushed curricula that included how to use NewsGuard’s “plug-in” (a computer program that displays the hopelessly biased rating NewsGuard gives each media site) and how to incorporate Ad Fontes’s rigged “Media Bias Chart” into lesson plans. The NewsGuard portion of the curricula was funded, in part, by activist billionaires George and Alexander Soros.
- A separate MRC study showed NewsGuard ranks leftist media 26 percentage points higher, on average, than right-leaning media.
- An MRC study found that Ad Fontes favors leftist media by a two to one margin.
A session of the State Department seminars centered on how to train children as political activists. The curriculum pushed in this session included lessons promoting street protests for leftist causes and detailed instructions on how to turn school children into “media producers” who advocate against free speech. Educators were told to reward children with prizes for promoting censorship via social media posts on platforms like Instagram.
The State Department seminars were co-hosted by a German government institution and focused on bringing German indoctrination strategies into American classrooms. It is noteworthy that Germany was chosen to co-host the seminars: the nation’s government has been the most aggressive European Union power censoring online speech and restricting individual expression. The Rhode Island Lab’s partner in Germany was the University of Würzburg, a controversial state entity with a long history of censorship; the curricula was often developed with German government funds and was crafted, in part, by a vice chairman of the country’s socialist ruling party.
Part 2 of this report will detail the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to bring this effort to scale and roll it out nationwide.
How the Biden Administration Pushed German Censorship to American Teachers
The Biden administration has created an interconnected web of public and private actors to silence political dissent across the United States.
This network involves a dizzying array of actors: federal agencies, state officials, local politicians, academia, activist groups, non-profits, a lobby shop, media ratings firms, billionaires, the public school system, and foreign governments.
The Biden regime, through a year-long series of State Department seminars, has quietly incubated this censorship project through one organization: the University of Rhode Island Media Education Lab (the “Rhode Island Lab”). The Rhode Island Lab has spent two decades pushing a specific strain of “media literacy,” a rebranding of censorship for a Gen Z audience. With the Biden administration’s backing, the Rhode Island Lab has been able to supercharge its efforts, rolling out its programs nationwide to a vast and incestuous network of connected organizations for the administration to direct.
This report details the incubation part of the Biden administration’s endeavor: a year-long series of seminars hosted and funded by the State Department in Würzburg, Germany. It was here that the Rhode Island Lab first trained American educators on European socialist strategies for bringing indoctrination into the classroom to “inoculate” students against conservative ideas and turning students into leftist political activists. Part 2 of this report will detail how the Department of Homeland Security provided the funds necessary to implement the programs developed in Würzburg and bring them to communities and classrooms across America.
I. The State Department trained educators on how to inoculate students against ideas not approved by the left.
One would think that the United States Embassy to Germany would be focused on advancing the interests of the United States in Germany. Under the Biden administration, though, it was the reverse. The U.S. embassy set up a “year-long, cross-national professional learning community,” dubbed the “Medialogue on Propaganda,” in order to export German socialist ideas of censorship to American educators.
The series of seminars, which consisted of eleven segments and stretched from June of 2021 to April of 2022, were hosted virtually out of Würzburg, Germany. Over 700 educators were trained at the seminar, with a select eighteen American teachers paired with European instructors to create model “lesson plans” for use in United States classrooms.
The seminars were jointly conducted by two universities and financed by the American taxpayer. On the German side was the University of Würzburg’s Media Education & Educational Technology Lab, a German government entity. On the American side was Rhode Island’s Media Education Lab (the “Rhode Island Lab”).
Part of the University of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Lab has spent two decades pushing a specific strain of “media literacy,” a glossy rebranding of censorship for a Gen Z audience. Despite being part of the public (and thus taxpayer-funded) University of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Lab had a long history of far-left activism even before it applied for (and received) the State Department’s $30,000 grant for a series of seminars. Among the myriad examples of the Rhode Island Lab’s activism are:
- In 2017, the Rhode Island Lab unveiled an entire lesson plan — titled “Teaching Conspiracies” — to attack the idea that Google had manipulated search results to favor former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, disparaging a video documenting the bias as coming from “a noted conspiracy theorist” who “was making money from the entertainment value of an anti-Hillary message.” In actuality, studies found Google did manipulate their algorithms to interfere in the 2016 election, and it has only escalated its misconduct in recent years.
- In 2020, the Rhode Island Lab proudly promoted a warning from a Washington Informer report in which the Rhode Island Lab founder was quoted. The article equated “[then-President Donald J.] Trump supporters” to the “Klu Klux Klan” and suggested they would engage in “voter intimidation efforts in proximity to polling stations, especially in urban areas with an expected high turnout of Biden voters.” When no such voter intimidation occurred, the Rhode Island Lab still continued to tout the story.
- Also in 2020, the Rhode Island Lab promoted an article wherein the Rhode Island Lab founder boasted that “Trump is the ‘poster child’ of bad information” and that “he doesn’t value evidence.” She offered no evidence for this assertion.
- In 2021, the Rhode Island Lab held a seminar for educators on “how to teach students about the limits of freedom of expression” and how “to limit the harms of dangerous speech.” Promos for the seminar explained “domestic terrorism” was “clearly inspired” by former President Trump and featured tasteless artwork depicting the Jan. 6 Capitol riot as a LEGO set for children.
- In September of last year, the Rhode Island Lab attempted to organize an event to confront the “white supremacy” of “digital blackface,” a term for when non-black internet users feature images of black people in their avatars, icons or GIFs on their social media or video game accounts.
In addition to the German University of Würzburg and the Rhode Island Lab, the State Department included another formal member of its “Project Team.” This was the Rhode Island Lab’s grant fiscal agent, Media Literacy Now.
Media Literacy Now is not an academic institution. It is a lobbying group: a self-described “advocacy nonprofit” dedicated to “ensuring that media literacy is recognized by policymakers and the public as an essential part of K-12 education.” In its words, Media Literacy Now pursues “systemic change in K-12 education leading to media literacy in curriculum” by pressuring state legislators to mandate — and mandate funding for — “media literacy” education in order to fight “misinformation” and “online radicalization.” It even brags of its role in the move for “media literacy” mandates, which have been adopted by “eighteen states” and numerous additional school districts.
What is “media literacy,” exactly? The term is nebulous and amorphous, providing Media Literacy Now and the Rhode Island Lab cover when they need to obfuscate their agenda. Despite the State Department grant being ostensibly for “promoting media literacy,” the Rhode Island Lab’s final report did not define the term “media literacy” once — despite using the term sixty-four times. Elsewhere, Media Literacy Now pledges it is “committed to elevating media literacy education as a tool to create the society we all deserve: one that nurtures racial equity, social justice, and true democracy. Media literacy equals cultural change.”
This call for “cultural change” may seem vague, but Media Literacy Now displayed a glossy photo to highlight what it meant. The image, captioned “Democracy Now” and “Media Literacy Now,” depicted an angry mob of protestors waving a variety of presumably media literate signs. One prominently displayed banner read “ACAB,” a profane acronym popular among Antifa rioters. Translation: All Cops Are Bastards.
Media Literacy Now’s concept of “media literacy” is based on the idea that making too much information available to the public is inherently a threat. “The devastating effects of the pandemic,” Media Literacy Now declared in one propaganda piece, “have been exacerbated by an infodemic.” Media Literacy Now directed its audience to observe a September 2020 proclamation by the World Health Organization (WHO), which is backed by communist China. The WHO statement explained, “An infodemic is an overabundance of information,” and this overabundance could only be corrected by having “media and social media platforms … collaborate with the UN system with Member States and with each other” to censor information with which the collective disagrees.
Building on this infodemic concept, Media Literacy Now promotes research for “inoculation” theory, which posits that “[j]ust as vaccines generate antibodies to resist future viruses,” a society can “inoculate” itself against “misinformation” before the person is even told it. Concerningly, this un-American theory, which treats information as a disease, has been parrotted by Biden’s Department of Homeland Security while promoting social media censorship.
The Rhode Island Lab’s marriage with Media Literacy Now is anchored by Renee Hobbs. A fixture of the paid speaking circuit as an expert in “media literacy,” Hobbs is both an advisory board member for Media Literacy Now and the founder and CEO of the Rhode Island Lab. Through both organizations, she championed (failed) federal legislation that would create $60 million in subsidies for media literacy, writing that “[w]ith Russian operatives continuing their social media campaigns to influence voters ahead of the 2020 elections, there is no time to lose.”
Hobbs regularly communicates with Erin McNeill, Media Literacy Now’s president, to coordinate their respective groups’ lobbying efforts. Sometimes, this has consisted of McNeill asking Hobbs to temper her rhetoric to achieve their goals. In 2022, Hobbs received criticism after a National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) group she chaired released an inflammatory proclamation demanding educators “move beyond the exclusive focus on traditional reading and writing competencies” and “productively disrupt classroom hierarchies” and “the inequalities of contemporary life, including structural racism, sexism, consumerism, and economic injustice.” McNeill wrote to Hobbs, asking her to “steer away from this sort of” language. When one uses such phrases, McNeill warned, “it becomes evident they have an agenda beyond literacy.”
Media Literacy Now claims to have found tremendous success in getting states to adopt “media literacy” programs but its leaders apparently disapprove of media literacy programs that don’t promote the type of systemic changes they seek. Look, for example, to Texas’s attempt to establish a “media literacy” program that tried to steer clear of political indoctrination.
In 2021, Media Literacy Now advocated for Texas to pass a “media literacy” mandate, but later lambasted the final statute. Under the law’s text, “teachers are not allowed to ‘require an understanding of the 1619 Project.’” Taken literally, this means that the 1619 Project — a discredited conspiracy theory that claims America’s founding was meant to preserve slavery — is not mandated. A few months later, McNeill and Hobbs emailed each other during the morning hours of Texas’s next legislative session, expressing dismay concerning the state’s new “media literacy” bill, even though it expanded professional development opportunities for “media literacy” educators. The reason? None of those funds could go to teaching “critical race theory,” a hateful, Marxist ideology that preaches certain races are inherently either “privileged” or “oppressed.”
Through shared finances, staff, and projects, the Rhode Island Lab and Media Literacy Now are functionally one entity, and have been essentially treated as such by the Biden administration. They are only two thirds, though, of a dark trident of censorship. The third prong of this weapon is Ad Fontes Media.
II. The State Department seminars detailed how to put censorship tools Ad Fontes and NewsGuard into American classrooms.
MRC Free Speech America has previously reported on Ad Fontes Media, a media ratings firm that pushes a “Media Bias Chart” purporting to rank over 3,000 media sources for “bias” and “reliability.” Ad Fontes’s methodology and analysis is rigged to strongarm the public away from media on the right and towards media on the left. Ad Fontes favors leftist media by a two to one margin. Ad Fontes’s chart similarly, and outlandishly, suggests that media on the left are ten times less likely to be “unreliable.” Ad Fontes’s hopelessly broken system traces back to its founder and CEO Vanessa Otero, a left-wing Colorado lawyer whose media analysts must conform to her warped worldview.
Ad Fontes boasts on its website about its partnerships with Big Tech behemoths Meta and Microsoft, for which it steers traffic away from new media and towards left-wing legacy outlets. Ad Fontes is cagier, though, about its partnership with Media Literacy Now.
Though Media Literacy Now is theoretically a non-profit lobbying group, it is entirely intertwined with for-profit censorship firm Ad Fontes through overlapping staff, finances and revenue-sharing agreements. The Biden administration is exploiting this incestuous relationship to push censorship.
The president of Media Literacy Now’s Board of Directors is Jennifer Furlong. Furlong’s other job is as the Director of Communications for Ad Fontes (she also serves as a “right lean analyst” for the censorship firm, providing a supposedly conservative perspective while scoring media sources). Likewise, Otero, Furlong’s boss at Ad Fontes, serves on Media Literacy Now’s Advisory Council.
Media Literacy Now admits that it has a “strategic affiliation” with Ad Fontes. It lists the censorship outlet as one of its “sponsors” and “partners” (along with the Rhode Island Lab and the News Literacy Project, a pro-censorship activist group backed by tech giant Apple). What is less well publicized by Media Literacy Now is that Ad Fontes directs 10 percent of the income earned from its “News Nerd and News Nurturer Memberships” back to the supposedly non-profit lobbying group. Media Literacy Now then uses that money to pressure school districts into purchasing Ad Fontes products.
To see this scheme in action, look to the State Department seminars. This series of lectures was dedicated to teaching educators how to institute “media literacy” into American public school classrooms. Unsurprisingly, the seminar was hosted by Hobbs.
Otero spoke at the State Department seminars, giving her sales pitch for Ad Fontes and directions on how to include its products — such as the rigged “Media Bias Chart” — in the classroom. She also recited Media Literacy Now’s talking points for a general media literacy mandate: “Now, how should we teach media literacy and news literacy? Of course, in, like, full semesters and years and required for everyone from a very young age.”
Despite Media Literacy Now’s professed neutrality, Otero refused to mask her partisanship when representing her company during the seminar. She celebrated Ad Fontes’s low ratings for Fox News’s Sean Hannity and independent journalist Tucker Carlson — both noted critics of the Biden administration — while emphasizing the higher score given to disgraced left-wing newscaster Chris Cuomo.
At no point in the lecture did either Otero or Hobbs disclose the financial ties between Media Literacy Now and Ad Fontes, or that Media Literacy Now would likely tangibly benefit from the educators’ subscribing to Ad Fontes.
The State Department seminar demonstrated how Media Literacy Now and the Rhode Island Lab used tax-dollars to push Ad Fontes products, while simultaneously hiding the strong financial incentive they have to do so. The groups’ issues with transparency, though, go much further. Media Literacy Now and Ad Fontes’s leadership have repeatedly denied the media ratings firm’s connections to federal government grantees, even though these connections are demonstrably true.
MRC Free Speech America interviewed Furlong and Otero and asked whether they worked with any “government grantees.” Otero vociferously denied that they did, insisting “we [Ad Fontes] don’t work with any government grantees.”
Furlong did not correct the record. Instead, she went on her own podcast, Communication TwentyFourSeven, and doubled down. Unprompted, she loudly proclaimed, “We have zero ties! Ad Fontes Media has zero ties to the federal government!”
These statements are verifiably false. Furlong is president of Media Literacy Now’s board of directors, and Media Literacy Now organized the State Department-funded seminar. Otero — in her official capacity as Ad Fontes CEO — was the featured speaker at said State Department-funded seminar, hosted by the State Department-funded Rhode Island Lab. Otero was celebrated by the seminar host Hobbs, who serves with Otero on Media Literacy Now’s board. Otero then proceeded to give a lengthy sales pitch for Ad Fontes products, all while concealing any of these facts from the audience.
Unfortunately, Ad Fontes and its “Media Bias Chart” was not the only censorship tool the State Department seminars promoted. Another curriculum the Rhode Island Lab pushed, the “Data Detox Kit,” repeatedly instructs teachers to install a plug-in for NewsGuard, which censors the media sources students can access. A competitor of Ad Fontes, NewsGuard is a shady for-profit business that purports to rank news on “credibility,” but in practice disparages media critical of the left. Three MRC studies have revealed that, on average, NewsGuard rates right-leaning media significantly lower than their left-wing counterparts, and frequently celebrates extremist publications that traffic in demonstrably false conspiracy theories like the Russiagate hoax. The most recent MRC study, published Dec. 12, 2023, showed how biased media ratings firm NewsGuard ranked leftist media 26 percentage points higher, on average, than right-leaning media.
III. The State Department seminars were co-hosted by a German government institution and focused on bringing German indoctrination strategies into American classrooms.
Aside from the American Otero, much of the seminars’ speakers were European. Conducted out of Germany by a German government institution, the State Department event focused on importing German socialism and German censorship into American classrooms.
One German group that received an entire State Department seminar was Tactical Tech. The anti-free speech group’s seminar was represented by “activist and science communicator” Daisy Kidd. Based in Berlin, Tactical Tech claims to be a non-governmental organization. However, it receives its funding from the European Union (EU) government and Sida, an agency of the Swedish government akin to USAID. Tactical Tech is also partnered with six different left-wing non-profit groups — Associacio Verificat, Centro de Internet y Sociedad de la Universad del Rosario (ISUR), Data Labe, ForSet, Open Knowledge Brasil (OKBR) and Save the Children — which combined received over a million dollars from Open Society Foundation (OSF). Operating from the shadows, OSF is the organization far-left financiers George and Alexander Soros use to funnel money to their favorite extremist causes, such as climate change lockdowns, defunding local police departments, and—especially relevant here—mass censorship. (It should also be noted that Otero has written for the Soros-funded anti-free speech group Poynter Institute).
In addition to the six Soros-funded groups, Tactical Tech is also partnered with the Goethe Institut (a propaganda wing of the German government) and European Schoolnet. Schoolnet is an “inclusive education” group run by a coalition of thirty-four ministries of education, including the controversial governments of Cyprus, Germany, Romania and Turkey.
At the State Department seminar, Kidd highlighted two Tactical Tech products to be pushed into American classrooms. The first was the Data Detox Kit, a curriculum for teaching children how to go about “tackling misinformation.” As described above, “The Kit” detailed how to install NewsGuard plug-ins on school computers. It also distributes a brochure created by the EU government decrying different types of supposed “conspiracy theories,” such as “anti-vaccination” beliefs and “climate change denialism.” The “Kit” instructs students to stop using the term “fake news,” claiming it is “used by the powerful to discredit legitimate information, science, and journalism.” The term “fake news” was widely used and popularized by former President Trump to describe the legacy media’s relentlessly left-wing bias.
In addition to pushing NewsGuard, the “Kit” also instructs students to use Politifact and Snopes. Politifact and Snopes both purport to fact check other news sources, but are themselves infamous purveyors of misinformation. For example, both outlets aggressively attacked the New York Post’s October 2020 exposé on Hunter Biden’s corrupt business dealings, the former casting doubt on the reporting and the latter baselessly reciting false claims that the well-researched story from a century-old news publication was Russian disinformation. Though the fact checkers’ reports were themselves lacking key information and detail about the Hunter Biden bombshell reports — details even far-left outlets like CNN and The Washington Post now concede — fact checks provided cover for Big Tech platforms like Meta and Twitter (now X) to censor the story until after the election.
The second Tactical Tech product Kidd used the State Department seminar to push was a curriculum titled “The Glass Room.” In one of its lessons, “The Glass Room” instructs students on “[t]he problem of scaling freedom of expression.” The curriculum lectures that “[a]fter the increase of content moderation on WhatsApp, Facebook and YouTube due to COVID-19 misinformation, many people moved to Telegram.” This was a problem, according to “The Glass Room,” because Telegram “not only lacks any form of content moderation, but it also allows unlimited sharing.” The curriculum argues that the “frictionless design” of social media platforms “allows content to flow freely and far, creating a path for misinformation.”
“The Glass Room” also requires the use of interactive “games,” Bad News and Go Viral!, wherein students are instructed how to spot and protect against “misinformation.” Go Viral! was designed by the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab to “inoculate” people against allegedly “manipulative” content and ideas that exacerbated the “infodemic.” The project was commissioned by the UK Cabinet Office and funded by the United Nations and World Health Organization — both of which are backed by communist China.
The Glass Room’s own interactives profligate misinformation — albeit misinformation that favors the agenda of Biden and his far-left European allies. “The Glass Room” penalized students who said that the COVID-19 pandemic may have originated with a lab leak from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s Wuhan Institute of Virology, insisting this “has not been backed up with evidence.” In reality, evidence as early as March of 2020 indicated the virus originated from the Institute, and Biden’s own Department of Energy has now confirmed a Wuhan lab leak as COVID-19’s most likely origin.
The Glass Room also promoted an article reciting the unfounded conspiracy theory that Trump’s 2016 election victory was the result of “Russian hackers.” This is not the only place where the Rhode Island Lab baselessly suggested Trump had nefarious connections to Russia: it also distributed propaganda financed by the European Union and the Belgian Evans Foundation, which promoted a video implying Trump was working with or for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Hobbs herself has tweeted videos suggesting Trump was “supporting Putin [sic] interests over the United States;” she added it was further evidence of (entirely unsubstantiated) “Trump-Russia” ties.
Another speaker at the State Department seminars was Maria Ranieri, the Vice President of the Italian Association of Media Education and an official member of the Rhode Island Lab “team.” Ranieri spoke on behalf of the European organization MEET Tolerance. The firm receives both European government and activist group funding, and its research largely originates in Germany. Despite its international origins, the project’s name is an English-language acronym: “Media Education for Equity and Tolerance.”
MEET Tolerance justifies its curriculum’s focus on media literacy by lecturing that while "[t]he Internet offers many free communication channels and has become an important tool. … It is not just progressive voices which are being spread this way, [as] digital activism very much concerns also the empowerment of ideologies which are based on hatred.”
Elsewhere, MEET Tolerance teaches how to protest for “social justice” issues like open borders and against national sovereignty movements like Northern League or Brexit. It celebrated left-wing figures like London Mayor Sadiq Khan and former President Barack Obama and championed atheism, contrasting those who were “self confident” with those who were “religious.” It also recited the most extreme forms of critical race theory dogma, claiming that when people are “denying their racism,” they are in fact part of “racist discourses,” as “denial of racism” (even on a personal level) is inherently racist. For support of this claim, MEET Tolerance directed readers to a book titled The New Racism: Conservatives and the Ideology of the Tribe.
IV. A session of the State Department seminars centered on how to train children as political activists.
Unlike the other seminars, MEET Tolerance was not videotaped and was not included on the Rhode Island Lab’s website. Perhaps unrelatedly, MEET Tolerance pushed a particularly disturbing curriculum: Turning children into political activists.
Several pieces of MEET Tolerance’s curriculum described how to use “children as media producers,” where children would be “[a]dvocating intercultural values and social justice through [their] own media productions and practices.”
Most explicit was a curriculum developed by socialist German politician Konstantin von Notz. A vice chairman of the ruling Alliance 90/Greens Party, Von Notz is Deputy Chairman of the Bundestag’s Control Panel, the parliamentary organization overseeing the entirety of the nation’s intelligence agencies. Von Notz’s “No Hate Speech Movement” induced children to use predetermined and coordinated media hashtags and posts to create a seemingly grassroots push for an international censorship law, arguing “freedom of expression” should not protect “haters” motivated by “right wing extremism.” The movement for censorship even offered free red badges, “No Hate” balloons, and “No Hate” stickers to be distributed to children, encouraging the students to photograph themselves wearing the distributed apparel and then post the images on Meta’s Instagram.
Von Notz’s censorship efforts in Germany have been horrifyingly effective. He helped lead a successful government effort to ban the nation’s top opposition party from accessing public financing, a near-necessity for winning elections in a nation with draconian limits on independent campaign funding. He proudly championed a new internet censorship package in 2019 expanding Germany’s anti-hate speech regulatory regime, which imposes crippling fines on Big Tech companies that do not proactively remove user speech the government could find “hateful.” Shortly after leaders of Germany’s opposition criticized the law as a “Direct Attack on Freedom of Speech” and a return to the country’s “Stasi Methods,” Von Notz and his allies placed them under surveillance.
Through the Rhode Island Lab and the State Department’s seminars, Von Notz and MEET Tolerence’s German indoctrination has reached American shores. Take Palm Beach County Public Schools staff member April Leach, an attendee of the State Department seminars. Leach applied for and received an $8,000 grant for the “lesson plan” she developed at the seminars with Randall Fujimoto, an educator and director of the activist group Game Train Learning.
The project Leach and Fujimoto developed through the seminars, which they titled “Cyber Cafe” and designed to promote “media literacy,” used a mod of the popular children’s game Minecraft that was roughly analogous to The Glass Room interactive games. To complete the game, “students … begin their inquiry with a story about contaminated drinking water and … then use multiple sources” to accomplish their mission. In order to successfully evaluate the sources, Leach required the students to use Ad Fontes’s so-called Media Bias Chart.
A classmate of Leach at the State Department seminars, Lauren McClanahan, became an “affiliated faculty” member for the Rhode Island Lab. McClanahan created a program at the Bellingham, Washington, school which employed her, naming her operation “Justice in Your Backyard.” The program, which required students to watch and then mimic propaganda videos, was eerily similar to MEET Tolerence’s “media producers” scheme. The elementary school students in McClanahan’s class were instructed to create infographic and videographic messages to be distributed online as “a call to action when it comes to topics of social justice.”
One message called for donations to Everytown for Gun Safety, the Michael Bloomberg-funded parent organization of the Rhode Island Lab’s partner Moms Demand Action (MDA), a gun confiscation group. Another message solicited donations to the Trevor Project, a transgender advocacy group that ran an X-rated chatroom open to teens wherein staff discussed extreme sexual fetishes, including sado-masochism and coprophilia. A third message listed “microaggressions” that people should refrain from saying, such as “We are all just one race, the human race.” Multiple other messages attacked so-called “voter suppression,” criticizing “Voter ID laws” and “Purging Registrations” and urging that readers lobby their state legislatures to ban election integrity measures. One infographic even told readers to “[d]emand the absence of police in schools.”
While State Department seminar attendees like Leach and McClanahan allowed documentation of their controversial “media literacy” activities, not everyone is so transparent. Multiple educators who gave testimonials on the Ad Fontes website appear to have not divulged their use of the censorship tool to their employers.
Take Marlys Peck, a longtime professor at the public University of Central Missouri, for example. After Ad Fontes began offering prizes for testimonials, a glowing quote from Peck appeared on Ad Fontes’s website. Peck explained how she directed students to use the Ad Fontes “Media Bias Chart” in class and that the students “appreciated” it. However, after the MRC submitted a public records request to the University of Central Missouri, school administration claimed it could not find any of Peck’s communications with Ad Fontes. The administration insisted that it had been told no curriculum using Ad Fontes existed — even after being directed to the testimonial, which bore the university’s logo.
Similarly, then-Exploration Charter School Assistant Principal Nick Lind gave a testimonial for Ad Fontes, in which the New York grade school’s logo was clearly displayed. When the MRC submitted a public records request to Exploration Charter, the school administration claimed it was entirely unaware of the testimonial and Lind’s use of Ad Fontes, and could find neither the curriculum nor his communications.
Leach, Lind and McClanahan are all involved in children’s education, and Peck is an educator of college students. But the German censorship agenda was not just limited to those classrooms. In her final piece for the State Department, Hobbs detailed how — with the assistance of Media Literacy Now’s Rhode Island Chapter President, Pam Steager — she used the seminars to perfect “media literacy” evaluations for Austin, Texas’s Police Academy. Hobbs received a lucrative contract to participate in an overhaul of the Police Academy structured by for-profit consulting firm Kroll Associates. This revamp was highly political, with Kroll going so far as to recommend a ban on flag-raising ceremonies for fallen officers because it “potentially reinforces an ‘us versus them’ mindset” — a term Hobbs herself reiterated in her State Department report.
Hobbs has a long-history of anti-cop activism, launching her career with a 1994 documentary sympathetic to the LA rioters. With the seminars, though, she found a way to bring her activism directly into local police trainings. Using her experience for Kroll in Austin — made possible at least in part by the State Department — Hobbs then persuaded the University of Rhode Island to pay her for both a seminar and course she titled “Copaganda.”
Through the Rhode Island Lab, the State Department trained American educators on German socialist strategies for bringing indoctrination into the classroom, “inoculating” students against conservative ideas, turning students into leftist political activists, and putting the Ad Fontes and NewsGuard censorship tools into classrooms. The State Department provided a perfect demonstration of the Rhode Island Lab’s ability and the resources it could bring to the table. In a forthcoming follow-up report, the Media Research Center (MRC) will detail how, having honed its strategy, the Rhode Island Lab secured finances from the Department of Homeland Security to bring the theories discussed during the State Department seminars into action.
While the Biden administration’s censorship agenda is permeating society, it is not too late to fight back:
- Parents should call their local school boards and check if Ad Fontes or NewsGuard have been imposed in their children’s classrooms. If so, parents should demand the censorship tools be removed.
- State legislatures must bar taxpayer dollars from going to Ad Fontes and NewsGuard.
- Congress must defund all domestic censorship efforts (appropriations and authorizations).
- Congressmen and state attorneys general must investigate media literacy advocacy groups like Media Literacy Now for receiving potentially unlawful kickbacks from censorship firms.