NewsGuard, the establishment “news-rating” project that presents itself to the public as an impartial authority on the trustworthiness of news publishers, is telling reporters that it is not “government funded” — despite receiving a $750,000 contract from the Department of Defense to track “misinformation.”
The claim was made in an email to Matt Taibbi, a Twitter Files reporter who testified at a landmark House Judiciary Committee hearing on the topic of government-backed censorship last week.
In the email, NewsGuard co-founder and CEO Gordon Crovitz said the organization was a “business with many licensees” that pay for access to its and that the Pentagon is just one of those licensees.
I noticed with interest and surprise how you referred to NewsGuard in your congressional testimony on Thursday. There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding about NewsGuard and our work.
During the hearing, NewsGuard was inaccurately described as “U.S. government funded.” Unlike other entities mentioned during the hearing, we are not a non-profit funded by government grants. We are a business with many licensees paying to access our proprietary data, including government entities that pay to license our data. These licenses are only for access to our data and are entirely unrelated to our rating of news publishers.
For example, as is public, our work for the Pentagon’s Cyber Command is focused on the identification and analysis of information operations targeting the U.S. and its allies conducted by hostiles governments, including Russia and China. Our analysts alert officials in the U.S. and in other democracies, including Ukraine, about new false narratives targeting America and its allies, and we provide an understanding of how this disinformation spreads online. We are proud of our work countering Russian and Chinese disinformation on behalf of Western democracies.
As Breitbart News previously reported, the $750,000 Pentagon contract was for NewsGuard’s “misinformation fingerprints” project, described by the organization as “a catalogue of known hoaxes, falsehoods and misinformation narratives that are spreading online.”
In 2022, Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told the Pentagon to preserve its documents related to NewsGuard, expressing concern at the organization’s “extreme partisan bias.”
In a comment to Breitbart News, NewsGuard General Manager Matt Skibinski dismissed concerns over NewsGuard’s dealing with the government, stating:
Describing NewsGuard as a “U.S. government funded entity” is like saying Verizon is government-funded because some government agencies pay for its phone services.
NewsGuard is a for-profit business. We sell licenses to clients to access our data about misinformation and disinformation sources and narratives. While most of our licensees are in the private sector, some government entities license our data about state-sponsored disinformation campaigns targeting Western democracies from places like China, Venezuela, and Russia. To be clear, none of this work has anything to do with our work rating news website credibility.
We are proud that our data is useful in countering Chinese and Russian disinformation on behalf of Western democracies.
Breitbart News will continue to report on NewsGuard and the “misinformation” industry.
Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election.