A lawsuit against a US university for spreading misleading information in a campaign linking academics to the Muslim Brotherhood and allegedly being funded by the UAE.

WASHINGTON: A political science teacher has filed a lawsuit against America’s prestigious George Washington University, accusing it of participating in a disinformation campaign he claims was funded by the UAE, linking academics to the Muslim Brotherhood. False information was published.

Austrian university professor Farid Hafez has filed a lawsuit against George Washington University and its extremism program director Lorenzo Vidino, seeking $10 million in damages.

The second case in this regard to be filed in a U.S. court this year marks the start of what researchers call a “paid disinformation” industry in which influencers pay huge sums of money in return on behalf of wealthy clients. It highlights a lucrative industry based on the spread of false information. for it.

Foreign governments have long been accused of buying influence through donations to U.S. universities and other research institutions. But Hafez went further, accusing the ancient university of tarnishing the reputation of some people on behalf of the state.

The lawsuit, filed in a Washington court, alleges that George Washington University and Vidino “presented themselves as independent and objective players in academia while seizing a fourth estate, meaning authorities, academia, and the press.” “I was involved in a hidden conspiracy to deceive.” ”

The lawsuit also alleges that Geneva-based private company Alp Services paid journalists, academics and academics, including Mr. Vidino, on behalf of the UAE to distort the image of critics of the wealthy Gulf state. I’m blaming.

Mr. Bidino used his position at the university to target academics like Mr. Hafez, businesses and organizations, falsely claiming they were affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, which the United Arab Emirates classifies as a terrorist organization. He is accused of publishing the report.

“Bedino was a hired hand who, under the guise of academic objectivity and knowledge, sold unconfirmed rumors for the purpose of destroying people and organizations,” the complaint states.

“A ruined life”

Hafez, a political science professor at Williams College in Massachusetts, was arrested in 2020 as part of a campaign against Muslims and businesses in Austria.

However, none of those arrested were charged, and judicial authorities declared the operation illegal in 2021.

Mr. Hafez believed that Mr. Vidino was arrested because of the report he filed.

According to a contract agreement obtained by Agence France-Presse, Mr. Vidino received money in return for providing a “proposal” to Alp, which Alp used as part of a disinformation operation on behalf of the UAE.

“My client’s life has been destroyed by the activities that George Washington University, Vidino and Alp have carried out against him,” Hafez’s lawyer David Schwartz told AFP.

He added that his client is seeking $10 million in compensation.

Neither the university nor Vidino responded to AFP’s requests for comment on the incident.

Christian Coates-Ulliksen, a researcher specializing in Middle East issues at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, said, “Even if universities and programs were unaware of the covert actions, the prestige of their positions could be compromised by disinformation.” This may have increased the reliability of the system.” University of Houston.

This is not the first case of this kind to affect the UAE. In January, Italian-American Hazem Nada accused the Gulf state of spreading misleading information through Alp Services, which led to the bankruptcy of raw material trading company Lord Energy.

As Benjamin Freeman, an expert on these issues at the Quincy Institute, explained to AFP, Hafez’s case highlights the potential impact foreign funding can have on American universities.

Freeman believed that “American universities that receive millions or even hundreds of millions of dollars from authoritarian regimes will be less likely to criticize those regimes.”

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