Leftist internet traffic cop NewsGuard is the farthest thing from being the unbiased media referee it purports to be. It is a government-funded operation designed to attack right-leaning media by going after their advertiser funding.
There are at least five core reasons why Congress should strip funding from NewsGuard in the latest National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) since it received a $750,000 federal grant from the Department of Defense. The state funding of a leftist, so-called journalism gatekeeper that deceptively bills itself as “apolitical” is case in point. Such efforts by the government to censor media it does not approve of through the funding of a private organization is on its face unconstitutional. Moreover, NewsGuard’s inherent bias against right-leaning media and rubber-stamping of left-wing publications, its financing by special interests that compromise its objectivity, its apparent legitimization of communist Chinese government propaganda and its open celebration of its collusion with government make it little more than an Orwellian Ministry of Truth of the first magnitude.
Couple all that with the MRC’s analysis across two studies on NewsGuard’s media ratings and “Nutrition Labels” showing how the so-called media ratings firm is nothing more than a leftist political tool intended to silence the right and the problem becomes all too clear. It’s time for America’s legislators to finally take action.
Below MRC Free Speech America lists five core reasons why Congress should ensure that NewsGuard doesn’t receive another cent in taxpayer dollars.
1. NewsGuard’s government funding is unconstitutional. It is fundamental to living in a free and fair society that agencies of the federal government may not endorse the products and services of private companies they favor. Nor may they weaponize national power against companies that officials have decided they dislike, absent duly enacted statutes and regulations and appropriate due process.
In particular, the government is prohibited from censoring speech protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. These are basic, obvious, principles which the Biden administration has blatantly disregarded in its unlawful arrangement with NewsGuard, under contract to do the dirty work of government censorship.
An even more fundamental maxim is that what cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly. The Biden administration and its minions at NewsGuard are violating constitutional rights; this needs to be stopped.
2. NewsGuard’s ratings system is heavily skewed to favor leftist media. The MRC has shown across two major studies of NewsGuard’s ratings system that it is not to be trusted. Using a media bias chart provided by AllSides in December 2021, the MRC exposed NewsGuard for giving a high average score of 93/100 to “left” and “lean left” media outlets while slapping “right” and “lean right” media outlets with a low average score of 66/100. The MRC then waited a year and conducted the same exact study to see if the needle would move. No surprise: It barely budged. MRC’s second study covering 2022 and released in January 2023 found that NewsGuard’s average score for “left” and “lean left” outlets was 91/100. Meanwhile, NewsGuard gave “right” and “lean right” outlets a lowly 66/100. And this data looks even worse in light of recent events where leftist media outlets that get glowing reviews as paragons of journalistic integrity from NewsGuard have pushed outright falsehoods onto the global public.
Arguably the most blatant exhibit involved the notorious Steele dossier that served as the pretext for the entire Russia-Trump collusion hoax that leftist media and politicians shoved down the American people’s throats. The now-defunct leftist BuzzFeed News, which published the entire dossier, maintained its perfect 100/100 NewsGuard score even after falsehoods in the dossier were exposed. The BuzzFeed News website continues to host the bogus dossier. Top government officials and Democrat lawmakers wielded the Steele dossier as part of a protracted political investigation that cost $25.2 million in taxpayer dollars, according to Fox Business, and paralyzed the country politically for two years.
Another glaringly obvious example of journalistic malfeasance from media outlets NewsGuard considers to be trusted sources involves the Biden bribery scandal. In 2022, the MRC revealed that Politico, The Washington Post, Axios and USA Today all managed to maintain flawless 100/100 scores despite falsely characterizing the Hunter Biden laptop bombshell by the New York Post as part of some “disinformation” operation prior to the 2020 election. None of the leftist media outlets updated the stories MRC uncovered that peddled that falsehood after The New York Times independently verified the emails found on President Joe Biden’s son’s laptop. But perhaps there’s a reason for why NewsGuard left the grades of these media outlets untouched: It’s own co-CEO Steven Brill went publicly on CNBC before the 2020 election to arbitrarily lambast the Hunter biden laptop story as a Russian “hoax” himself.
But that’s not all.
When a bombing occurred at the al-Ahli hospital in Gaza during the ongoing Israel-Hamas war Oct. 17, 2023, the terrorist-run Gaza Health Ministry capitalized on the event to falsely blame an Israeli airstrike. Leftist outlets like The New York Times, Reuters, Politico and TIME magazine all took the Hamas propaganda at face value, and without corroborating evidence, trumpeting the narrative across the internet, sparking mass protests across the Middle East and anti-Israel statements of fury issued by regional governments. Both the Senate and House intelligence committees later absolved Israel of any blame for the attack, but the damage by the leftist propaganda was already done. All four outlets maintained their perfect 100/100 scores, according to NewsGuard’s criteria, despite irresponsibly adding fuel to the fires of an already hot, deadly war by running false, anti-Israel agitprop.
The Times was arguably the worst offender. Not only did the outlet run a glaringly false headline — “Israeli Airstrike Hits Gaza Hospital, Killing 500, Palestinian Health Ministry Says” — the outlet used a photo of the wreckage of a completely different structure. As The Dispatch’s Jeryl Bier pointed out in a piece excoriating the newspaper, “the accompanying photo was not even of the hospital, but rather of a building in a city some 15 miles to the south.” Bier also concluded that The Times’s framing, bolstered by its misleading imagery, would “likely” lead Times readers to believe that the depicted carnage was of the “hospital in question.” The original, false story was plastered on the front page of the newspaper’s website with the misleading photo prominently displayed. But according to NewsGuard’s “Nutrition Label,” The Times gets perfect marks for supposedly “gather[ing] and present[ing] information responsibly.”
3. Financing from Big Pharma created a glaring conflict of interest. NewsGuard’s financing from Big Pharma special interests casts its notorious gatekeeping on issues related to COVID-19 and the vaccines into major doubt. The Washington Times reported Nov. 18 that NewsGuard received a $6 million investment from a consortium that included the Publicis Groupe, “which represents some of the world’s leading pharmaceutical and health care companies, including COVID-19 vaccine maker Pfizer.” Shockingly, according to The Times, NewsGuard “denied any conflict of interest” and claimed that the “group’s investors have never contacted them and have no influence over the company’s rating system.” Does NewsGuard just want people to forget the principle that money talks? Either way, the way NewsGuard has treated right-leaning outlets that have questioned the government narrative on COVID-19, the subsequent lockdowns, and the efficacy and safety of masks and vaccines is nothing short of egregious when viewed through the lens of its connections to Big Pharma.
Media outlets like The Federalist, which received a failing grade of 12.5/100 from NewsGuard, were lambasted for allegedly publishing “false and misleading” information pertaining to “COVID-19 and other issues.” In NewsGuard’s “Nutrition Label” for Fox News, which got a mediocre grade of 69.5/1000, the so-called media ratings firm openly defended the efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine without disclosing that one of its investors actively represents the pharmaceutical giant. [Emphasis added.]
The Times noted that The Daily Sceptic, another publication whose skepticism of vaccines drew the ire of NewsGuard’s web traffic monitors, got its score dinged down to a failing 37.5/100. “The site gets 1.8 million views every month, [Daily Sceptic Editor-in-Chief Toby] Young said, but its advertising has dried up since NewsGuard’s blacklisting.” NewsGuard’s “Nutrition Label” for the site updated Aug. 23, 2023, also openly defended Pfizer without disclosing the apparent conflict of interest. The Times summarized the Publicis Groupe’s affiliation with Pfizer:
“In May, NewsGuard funder Publicis Groupe signed a deal with Pfizer, which made tens of billions of dollars off the production of its COVID-19 vaccine and associated treatments. The drugmaker and vaccine giant hired Publicis to oversee its ‘integrated global engine,’ which includes data and technology, media and creative production.”
The reality of NewsGuard’s connections to Pfizer through one of its investors precludes any attempt to prop up a false veneer of objectivity. Rutgers University Law School adjunct professor Bruce Afran told The Times that “‘NewsGuard got this funding, and then goes after so-called COVID disinformation.’” He elaborated further, “‘NewsGuard’s got an inherent conflict of interest built in.’”
4. NewsGuard has openly celebrated its dystopian collusion with the federal government. NewsGuard isn’t shy about its incestuous relationship with the federal government to police the internet. Apparently, it openly boasted of its government collaboration when it tried to convince Twitter to integrate its ratings system into the Big Tech platforms’ censorship operations in May 2021. Independent Journalist Lee Fang reported in RealClearWire that NewsGuard Co-CEO Gordon Crovitz’s pitch to Twitter included an “out-of-the-box tool that would use artificial intelligence powered by NewsGuard algorithms to rapidly screen content based on hashtags and search terms the company associated with dangerous content.” In exchange, the proposed “tool” would then redirect users to “official government sources only” on issues like COVID-19. Other content-moderation partners Crovitz mentioned in his pitch, reported Fang, “include[d] ‘intelligence and national security officials,’ ‘reputation management providers,’ and ‘government agencies,’ which contract with the firm to identify misinformation trends.”
Despite NewsGuard’s repeated assertions to the contrary, the firm is effectively a state agent accomplishing through the backdoor what the federal government can’t do constitutionally through the front door in censoring speech. Crovitz reportedly estimated the potential market value for the speech policing operations at a whopping $1.74 billion in his pitch to Twitter, according to Fang. NewsGuard is currently facing a lawsuit from one of its victims, Consortium News, which accused the firm of acting as a U.S. government agent to suppress its coverage.
5. NewsGuard rates communist Chinese government propaganda as more credible than American publications. The reality that NewsGuard considers Chinese state propaganda to be more credible than American publications is nothing short of nefarious. The MRC first exposed this phenomenon in February 2022, and it still persists to this day. The China Daily, the Global Times and China Global Television Network (CGTN) and The People’s Daily— all run by the communist Chinese government — got scores of 44.5/100, 39.5/100, 44.50/100 and 39.5/100 respectively from NewsGuard. The Global Times, in particular, is the same outlet that has gone so far as to threaten Australia with becoming “cannon fodder” on Twitter. The People’s Daily is also particularly notorious for being the “official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee, and is the most influential and authoritative newspaper in China to represent the voice of the Chinese central government,” according to OxfordReference.com. Despite being responsible for spewing propaganda emanating from the Beijing authorities, NewsGuard gives all four outlets the green checkmark for “not repeatedly publish[ing] false or egregiously misleading content.”
By contrast, American publications like The Federalist, One America News, Newsmax, Life News, LifeSite News and American Thinker are all considered to be significantly less credible than Chinese state propaganda. All six publications received worse grades than their communist Chinese competitors. The Federalist got an abysmal 12.5/100. OAN got 25/100. Newsmax received a failing 15/100 and American Thinker got dinged with a 12.5/100 rating also. Pro-life publications Life News and LifeSite News were also targets of NewsGuard, which both got slapped with a failing grade of 17.5/100.
Why would the federal government proceed to continue funding any outfit that considers communist agitprop to be more credible than U.S. media?
Conservatives are under attack. Contact your representatives and demand that Congress refuse to authorize funding for NewsGuard. If you have been censored, contact us using CensorTrack’s contact form, and help us hold Big Tech accountable.