Investigative Reporter Lee Fang: NewsGuard Demands News Orgs Conform to Government Narratives

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - SEPTEMBER 01: U.S. President Joe Biden delivers a primetime s
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NewsGuard, a for-profit company that rates news websites and works closely with government agencies and major corporate advertisers, demands news websites follow government narratives, according to investigative reporter Lee Fang.

While there is no official ban on talking about, for example, the efficacy of coronavirus vaccines, editors and journalists understand that writing about such issues can result in consequences, such as demonetization and shadow-banning, due to the Orwellian existence of a network of government agencies and groups claiming to combat so-called “misinformation” repressing online speech, according to independent journalist Lee Fang in the New York Post.

NewsGuard’s business model is based on being a so-called misinformation meter. It rates news websites on a scale of 0 to 100 on an array of factors, such as headline choice and whether the website publishes “false or egregiously misleading content.”

NewsGuard targets pro-Trump news outlets

NewsGuard targets pro-Trump news outlets (Alex Wong/Getty, Jason Connolly/AFP/Getty, NewsGuard; Edit: BNN)

The boot of censorship

The boot of censorship (Westend61/Getty)

According to Fang, while this may appear to some as an objective public service, these ratings are a way to coerce conformity, as they give NewsGuard the power to smear an entire website as untrustworthy if it strays from the government narrative.

In one example, the libertarian-leaning British website, the Daily Sceptic, received a 74.5 rating from NewsGuard. The Daily Sceptic editor Toby Young reportedly reached out to NewsGuard in a series of emails over the last two years trying to improve the site’s rating, only to be downgraded further after adding postscripts to articles, rather than retracting the articles completely.

NewsGuard had taken issue with the Daily Sceptic’s criticism of lockdowns, in which the site called them “unnecessary, ineffective and harmful” and cited academic literature on the topic, Fang reported.

To appease NewsGuard, Young added postscripts to his articles, noting the issues raised by the so-called “fact-checkers,” and providing additional information. As a result, NewsGuard further dropped Young’s rating to 37.5. NewsGuard wanted the articles retracted, not further research on the harmful effects of lockdowns to be added to the articles.

In an email to one of its government clients, NewsGuard reportedly bragged that its ratings system is used by advertisers, “which will cut off revenues to fake news sites.”

NewsGuard, founded in 2018, works closely with corporate advertisers. One of its largest investors is the Publicis Groupe, which is the largest marketing agency in the world. But to Fang, what is even more concerning is NewsGuard’s ties to the government.

The founders of NewsGuard have been caught privately pitching the company to clients as a tool for content moderation on an industrial scale, and suggested using AI to remove dissenting speech, according to documents revealed in the “Twitter Files.”

During the pitch, NewsGuard reportedly noted that this service is already being used by “intelligence and national security officials,” as well as “reputation management providers,” and “government agencies.”

Earlier this year, the left-leaning website Consortium News filed a lawsuit against NewsGuard, alleging that it serves as a means for the U.S. military to get away with illegal censorship.

The lawsuit points to the Pentagon’s $749,387 contract with NewsGuard to identify “false narratives” regarding the war between Ukraine and Russia, among other things.

NewsGuard had reportedly targeted Consortium News over a few columns pointing out neo-Nazi elements in the Ukrainian military, as well as U.S. influence over the Ukrainian government, and demanded retractions.

Last week, The Federalist, The Daily Wire, and the state of Texas filed a lawsuit against the U.S. State Department for funding “censorship enterprises” and blacklisting.

The complaint alleges that the State Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC) financed companies like NewsGuard, and weaponized  the government office — meant for countering foreign terrorist propaganda — against Americans engaged in what it claimed was “disinformation.”

It was “one of the most audacious, manipulative, secretive, and gravest abuses of power and infringements of First Amendment rights by the federal government in American history,” the lawsuit states.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Facebook and X/Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.


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