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Lawsuit alleges prestigious university's role in misinformation campaign funded by UAE

1 min

A professor lodged a complaint against a prestigious American university for allegedly engaging in a misinformation campaign, purportedly funded by the United Arab Emirates, linking scholars to the Muslim Brotherhood organization.

Both GWU and Vidino have not responded to requests for comment on these allegations © Mena Today 

A professor lodged a complaint against a prestigious American university for allegedly engaging in a misinformation campaign, purportedly funded by the United Arab Emirates, linking scholars to the Muslim Brotherhood organization.

Farid Hafez, an Austrian political scientist, filed a lawsuit seeking $10 million from George Washington University (GWU) and Lorenzo Vidino, the director of the extremism program. This marks the second such case this year, in what researchers describe as a lucrative industry peddling false information and conducting influence operations on behalf of major clients.

The lawsuit filed in Washington delineates a conspiracy involving the university, Vidino, and Alp Services, a Geneva-based company allegedly acting on behalf of the UAE.

This conspiracy purportedly aimed to undermine critics of the UAE through disinformation campaigns, leveraging the academic credibility of Vidino and GWU to lend weight to false reports.

Hafez, who was implicated in a police raid in Austria in 2020 targeting Muslim individuals and businesses, asserts that his involvement in this operation was a direct result of a report by Vidino.

Despite the detainees from the raid being released without charges and the operation being declared illegal, Hafez contends that the repercussions of the misinformation have had a devastating impact on his life.

The lawsuit sheds light on a broader issue concerning the influence of foreign funding on American academic institutions and think tanks. This case underscores the ethical concerns and potential conflicts of interest that may arise from such financial relationships, particularly when they are purportedly used to conduct influence operations or disseminate misinformation.

Both GWU and Vidino have not responded to requests for comment on these allegations. 

This silence, coupled with the detailed accusations in the lawsuit, raises significant questions about the integrity of academic independence in the face of foreign influence. Experts in the field, including Kristian Coates Ulrichsen and Benjamin Freeman, have highlighted the potential for such funding to compromise the objectivity and critical capacity of American universities with respect to authoritarian regimes.

This case not only underscores the precarious balance between academic freedom and the influence of foreign funding but also highlights the potential for misuse of academic platforms in geopolitical influence operations. 

The outcome of this lawsuit could have far-reaching implications for the oversight and governance of foreign funding in American universities, potentially prompting a reevaluation of ethical standards and transparency in academic and research institutions.

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