Websites that monitor university faculty for evidence of alleged bias against the US and Israel have made inroads in government despite their detractors labelling them little more than blacklists that "chill" free discourse.
The sites' efforts have resulted in a congressional panel seeking increased oversight of federally funded international studies programmes - which website Campus Watch and its director, Daniel Pipes, say promote an anti-Israel and an anti-US bias.
Also, Mr Pipes has been appointed by President George W. Bush to a government-funded foreign-policy institute.
The US think-tank Middle East Forum set up Campus Watch a year ago to compile online "dossiers" on academics, especially Middle Eastern specialists, it considers anti-Israel and pro-Arab. The scholars it named and their supporters have said that the dossiers were meant to halt the free exchange of views.
The controversy has led a House of Representatives subcommittee to approve unanimously legislation tightening the screws on university foreign-studies programmes, "to ensure the appropriate use of taxpayer funds", congressman Peter Hoekstra said.
Campus Watch is one of several groups that began to monitor university faculty after the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks. Another, NoIndoctrination.org, invites students to report on professors they consider biased. To date, it lists 85 US academics.
Campus Watch has stopped posting its dossiers online in a gesture of goodwill, it said, because of the public outcry likening the posting to a blacklist, not to mention an incentive to students to spy on their professors.
Even without this tool, the site has forced the closure of a University of Michigan website, which it said contained radical Islamic teachings, and it focused scrutiny on the University of California, Berkeley, for taking money from a Saudi family it said was connected to Hamas.
In retaliation, Mr Pipes had invitations to address universities such as Stanford withdrawn. He has been sued by a professor at the University of Oregon whom he called a "leftwing extremist".
The American Civil Liberties Union said Campus Watch created dangerous "citizen informants". Senator Edward Kennedy said that Mr Pipes' writings were "just the opposite" of the mission of the US Institute of Peace, to which he was appointed by Mr Bush.
The influence of groups such as Campus Watch and NoIndoctrination.org shows no sign of waning.
Luann Wright, the founder and president of NoIndoctrination. org, said the organisations "only want to promote open inquiry and are not out to 'chill' the academic community".