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NewsGuard Boasted of Government Ties in Censorship Pitch to Twitter

NewsGuard, the purportedly impartial media rating service that has created a blacklist of disfavored news organization, boasted of its ties to the intelligence community and to other arms of the federal government in a pitch to Twitter before Elon Musk bought the company.

According to a report by Lee Fang in Real Clear Wire, NewsGuard pitched Twitter (pre-Musk purchase) on integrating its blacklist into the social media platform’s content moderation system. NewsGuard co-founder L. Gordon Crovitz told Twitter his company had developed an AI tool that could screen hashtags and search terms for blacklisted content.

According to the report, NewsGuard promised that its product would help direct users to official government sources on topics like coronavirus, and boasted of the organization’s ties to “intelligence and national security officials” as well as “government agencies.”

Via Real Clear Wire:

How would the company determine the truth? For issues such as COVID-19, NewsGuard would steer readers to official government sources only, like the federal Centers for Disease Control. Other content-moderation allies, Crovitz’s pitch noted, include “intelligence and national security officials,” “reputation management providers,” and “government agencies,” which contract with the firm to identify misinformation trends. Instead of only fact-checking individual forms of incorrect information, NewsGuard, in its proposal, touted the ability to rate the “overall reliability of websites” and “’prebunk’ COVID-19 misinformation from hundreds of popular websites.”

Twitter ultimately declined to use NewsGuard’s services, but the pitch — and its heavy emphasis on government involvement — is significant, given that the company is currently facing a lawsuit alleging that the company is acting as a surrogate of the U.S. government to shut down First Amendment protected online speech.

The lawsuit was filed by Consortium News, a news website founded by a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, which has been branded a purveyor of disinformation and false content by NewsGuard.

Consortium’s lawsuit points to NewsGuard’s $750,000 contract from the Pentagon to “known hoaxes, falsehoods and misinformation narratives that are spreading online” as evidence of its status as a government-funded entity. NewsGuard’s inclusion of its ties to national security officials and federal agencies in its pitch to Twitter may be seen as further evidence of its ties to the government.

Breitbart News has covered NewsGuard extensively, exposing the organization for its blacklist of media outlets, and the tendency of its leading figures and advisors to spread misinformation themselves.

NewsGuard has repeatedly undermined the credibility of conservative media, including Breitbart News and Fox News, while giving perfect ratings to establishment media outlets that repeatedly promoted giant falsehoods, including the notion that the Hunter Biden laptop story was Russian disinformation.

As Breitbart News has previously reported, NewsGuard’s own co-founder, Steven Brill, misled the public regarding Russia, going on national TV weeks before the 2020 election to promote the false rumor that the Hunter Biden laptop story was likely a “hoax perpetrated by the Russians.”

The same false claim was promoted by NewsGuard advisory board member Michael Hayden, a former director of the NSA and CIA who has been accused of misleading the American public for decades on topics ranging from torture programs to domestic surveillance operations. Bloomberg in 2014 wrote that Hayden was by some assessments “the nation’s biggest liar.”

“He has lied so brazenly and so often, anything he says must be treated with instant suspicion,” wrote one reporter of Hayden, who now advises an organization that claims to be an authority on misinformation and media lies.

In a comment to Breitbart News, NewsGuard General Manager Matt Skibinski accused Real Clear of publishing a “conspiracy theory” and insisted that NewsGuard doesn’t censor on behalf of the government, despite receiving money from it:

“The piece you’re referring to is riddled with factual errors — for example, misdescribing a company as our largest investor when it is not, claiming that we downgraded a site’s rating for saying that COVID-19 could have leaked from a lab, and claiming that our data is used by a list of advertisers we do not actually license our data to. But more important, it provides absolutely no evidence for its core claim: That government agencies instruct or are involved in NewsGuard’s work rating news sites. That’s because this is simply not true: The data we license to the defense sector is focused on narratives in state-sponsored media sources run by authoritarian governments in states like China, Iran, and Russia, and has nothing to do with our ratings of news sources in the U.S. or Europe.”

“The author of the piece has invented an alluring conspiracy theory in which government agents are supposedly telling NewsGuard analysts to rate certain websites poorly. The reality is much less exciting: NewsGuard rates sites based on apolitical journalistic criteria, and the sites mentioned in the piece score poorly because they do not adhere to some of those criteria.”


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