President Barack Obama on Friday signed the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act into law. But days later, one of the lesser-known provisions included in the bill is gaining attention.
Obama said in a statement on the signing of the 2017 NDAA:
Today, I have signed into law S. 2943, the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017.” This Act authorizes fiscal year 2017 appropriations principally for the Department of Defense and for Department of Energy national security programs, provides vital benefits for military personnel and their families, and includes authorities to facilitate ongoing operations around the globe. It continues many critical authorizations necessary to ensure that we are able to sustain our momentum in countering the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and to reassure our European allies, as well as many new authorizations that, among other things, provide the Departments of Defense and Energy more flexibility in countering cyber-attacks and our adversaries' use of unmanned aerial vehicles.
By the stroke of Obama’s pen, the Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act also became law as it was included in the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.
The bill was initially introduced by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) in March and was later inserted into the latest NDAA installment.
The Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act has two main goals, according to a press release on Portman’s Senate website:
• The first priority is developing a whole-of-government strategy for countering THE foreign propaganda and disinformation being wages [sic] against us and our allies by our enemies. The bill would increase the authority, resources, and mandate of the Global Engagement Center to include state actors like Russia and China as well as non-state actors. The Center will be led by the State Department, but with the active senior level participation of the Department of Defense, USAID, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the Intelligence Community, and other relevant agencies. The Center will develop, integrate, and synchronize whole-of-government initiatives to expose and counter foreign disinformation operations by our enemies and proactively advance fact-based narratives that support U.S. allies and interests.
• Second, the legislation seeks to leverage expertise from outside government to create more adaptive and responsive U.S. strategy options. The legislation establishes a fund to help train local journalists and provide grants and contracts to NGOs, civil society organizations, think tanks, private sector companies, media organizations, and other experts outside the U.S. government with experience in identifying and analyzing the latest trends in foreign government disinformation techniques. This fund will complement and support the Center’s role by integrating capabilities and expertise available outside the U.S. government into the strategy-making process. It will also empower a decentralized network of private sector experts and integrate their expertise into the strategy-making process.
“Our enemies are using foreign propaganda and disinformation against us and our allies, and so far the U.S. government has been asleep at the wheel,” Portman said in a statement. “But today, the United States has taken a critical step towards confronting the extensive, and destabilizing, foreign propaganda and disinformation operations being waged against us by our enemies overseas.”
Murphy echoed Portman, claiming that the “use of propaganda to undermine democracy has hit a new low.”
“But now we are finally in a position to confront this threat head on and get out the truth. By building up independent, objective journalism in places like eastern Europe, we can start to fight back by exposing these fake narratives and empowering local communities to protect themselves,” he added.
With all the reports of Russia attempting to interfere with the 2016 election, the topic of “fake news” has been a hotly contested subject.
Some critics on social media have made it clear they don't want the government involved at all in the filtering of information. The government, of course, vows it only seeks to “proactively advance fact-based narratives that support U.S. allies and interests.”