NewsGuard, a supposedly unbiased media rating service that has compiled a list of unfavorable news organizations, emphasized its ties to government bodies and the intelligence community while pitching its services to Twitter before being acquired by Elon Musk. In a report by Lee Fang on Real Clear Wire, it was revealed that NewsGuard approached Twitter with the suggestion of integrating its blacklist into the platform’s content moderation system.
L. Gordon Crovitz, co-founder of NewsGuard, informed Twitter about their development of an AI tool capable of screening hashtags and search terms for blacklisted content.
The report further stated that NewsGuard pledged to direct users to official government sources when it comes to topics such as COVID-19. They also boasted about their affiliations with “intelligence and national security officials” and various “government agencies.”
As per NewsGuard’s proposal, they claimed to have the ability to rate the overall reliability of websites and identify and debunk COVID-19 misinformation from numerous popular websites.
Although Twitter ultimately declined to use NewsGuard’s services, the emphasis on government involvement in their pitch holds significance, particularly due to an ongoing lawsuit accusing the company of acting as a platform for the U.S. government to suppress First Amendment-protected online speech. The lawsuit was filed by Consortium News, a news website founded by a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, which NewsGuard labeled as a disseminator of disinformation and false content.
Consortium’s lawsuit argues that NewsGuard’s $750,000 contract with the Pentagon to combat online hoaxes and misinformation serves as proof of its government-funded status. NewsGuard’s mention of their associations with national security officials and federal agencies in their pitch to Twitter could further substantiate these claims of government connections.
Breitbart News has extensively covered NewsGuard, exposing their media outlet blacklist and uncovering instances where their leading figures and advisors have spread misinformation themselves. NewsGuard has consistently undermined the credibility of conservative media, including Breitbart News and Fox News, while awarding top ratings to mainstream media outlets that have repeatedly propagated false narratives, such as the alleged Russian disinformation regarding the Hunter Biden laptop story.
In fact, NewsGuard co-founder Steven Brill himself propagated the false rumor on national TV weeks before the 2020 election that the Hunter Biden laptop story was likely a “hoax perpetrated by the Russians.” Similarly, NewsGuard advisory board member Michael Hayden, a former director of the NSA and CIA, has been accused of misleading the public on various topics, making him an unlikely advisor for an organization that claims authority on misinformation and media manipulation.
Responding to these allegations, NewsGuard General Manager Matt Skibinski accused Real Clear of spreading a “conspiracy theory” and denied that NewsGuard censors on behalf of the government, despite receiving funding from it. Skibinski clarified that their data, which is licensed to the defense sector, focuses on narratives in state-sponsored media sources from authoritarian governments in countries like China, Iran, and Russia, and has no influence on the ratings of news sources in the U.S. or Europe.