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George Washington University sued $10 million for Misinformation

On Wednesday, a prestigious American university George Washington University was sued for spreading. False information about academics being associated with a radical organization. In the Middle East through a disinformation campaign purportedly funded. By the United Arab Emirates.

The $10 million lawsuit was filed by Austrian political scientist Farid Hafez. Against George Washington University and Lorenzo Vidino. The head of the school’s extremism program.

This is the second case of its kind to reach US courts this year. Illuminating what scholars refer to as a lucrative “disinformation for hire” sector. That markets erroneous information and manipulates processes for compensated customers.

Foreign nations have long been charged with purchasing influence. By making sizable donations to think tanks and universities in the United States. However, Hafez’s lawsuit goes a step further, charging a prestigious university with engaging. In reputation-damaging activities on behalf of an independent nation.

The lawsuit, filed in the District of Columbia, accuses Vidino. And GWU of “holding themselves out as independent and objective academic actors”. While “engaging in a well-cloaked conspiracy to defraud authorities. Academia, and the fourth estate.”

Additionally, it names as a defendant Alp Services, a private intelligence organization. Based in Geneva that is allegedly employed by the UAE. It accuses the organization of dubious practices like funding academics and journalists. Including Vidino, to disparage the enemies of the Gulf state.

Vidino is charged with abusing his powerful position. At the university to attack scholars. Like Hafez, companies, and nonprofit organizations. By disseminating untrue articles that connected them to the Muslim Brotherhood. Which the United Arab Emirates has classified as a terrorist group.

“Vidino was a hired gun selling and repackaging unverified rumor and gossip. With the veneer of academic objectivity and scholarship. And with a mind toward ruining individuals and institutions,” the complaint stated.

“Life was obliterated.”

During Operation Luxor, a string of police raids against Austrian Muslims. And businesses in 2020, Hafez, a visiting professor. At Williams College in Massachusetts, was taken into custody. In 2021, the operation was declared illegal. And none of the people involved received a conviction.

Hafez claimed that a Vidino report was the reason. He became involved in the Austrian police operation.

As part of Alp’s purported disinformation campaign on behalf of the UAE. Vidino allegedly received payment for “leads of interest”. That he supplied to the Swiss company, according to a contract obtained by AFP.

Hafez’s attorney in New York, David Schwartz, told AFP. That “the activities conducted against him by GWU, Vidino. And Alp Services destroyed his life.”

He said that his client was requesting compensatory. And punitive damages totaling $10 million.

When AFP asked GWU for comment on the lawsuit or Vidino’s current standing with the school, GWU did not reply.

Vidino remained silent as well.

Kristian Coates Ulrichsen from Rice University’s Baker Institute told AFP. That “it may well be the case that the prestige of the affiliation added. To the perceived credibility of any disinformation. Even if the university and the program.. Were unaware of actions undertaken in a private capacity.”

Hafez’s lawsuit comes after a New Yorker magazine story. From the previous year that detailed how Alp, an oil trader hired by the United Arab Emirates. defamed oil trader Hazim Nada and eventually forced his company. Lord Energy, into bankruptcy.

In January, Nada filed a lawsuit in a Washington court against the United Arab Emirates. Its president Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, also referred to as MBZ. Its national oil company ADNOC, Emirati officials, Alp, and Vidino.

Benjamin Freeman, the director of the Quincy Institute’s Democratizing Foreign Policy program. Stated that the most recent lawsuit highlights. The potential impact of foreign funding on American universities.

“US universities receiving millions and even hundreds of millions of dollars. From authoritarian regimes are going to be a lot less likely. To offer critical commentary of those regimes,” Freeman told the AFP news agency.

Muhammad Imran
Muhammad Imran
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