COVID-19 is a phenomenon that even the most trusted sources have known almost nothing about since it began to spread in Wuhan, China. Outlets like CNN and organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) have published material that later turned out to be untrue.
Yet somehow, conservative media outlets get called out for “misinformation.”
A new report from liberal Microsoft partner NewsGuard, “Tracking Facebook’s COVID-19 Misinformation ‘Super-spreaders,’” went after large Facebook pages that “repeat, share, and amplify these myths” about COVID-19. The second example on the list was Rush Limbaugh’s Facebook page, which had shared “a link to Limbaugh’s site with false claims that the coronavirus was created in a lab as a bioweapon and that it is similar to the common cold.”
That’s not what the page said at all. NewsGuard wasn’t even accurate about the date of the post. NewsGuard claimed the posting happened on Feb. 24, but linked to Limbaugh’s Facebook post, published on Feb. 29, 2020. That Limbaugh item stated, “I think dealing with the Chinese, there are any number of things that are possible.” The link led to a transcript of Limbaugh’s February 26 episode, when a caller asked on his show if COVID-19 was meant to be a response to the United States’ economic sanctions. Limbaugh’s response began with, “I don’t know.”
Newsguard seemed to argue that Facebook would be interested in removing posts like Limbaugh’s. “We also found that in a majority of the false posts we reviewed, Facebook did not provide any warning, fact-checking language, or links to more credible sources — despite the platform’s recent promises to do so,” the report stated in its “Key Findings” section.
In a tweet, Newsguard co-founder and co-CEO Steven Brill even seemed to argue for Facebook to pay his organization. “If Facebook licensed NewsGuard the way Microsoft does, Facebook users would know about this stuff, too. Pretty simple,” he said.
NewsGuard was founded by Brill, and staffed with a team of former journalists: Gordon Crovitz (formerly with The Wall Street Journal), Poynter chief media writer James Warren (formerly with New York Daily News and The Chicago Tribune), and Eric Effron (formerly with Reuters, The Week, and Legal Times). Brill gave to Democrats four times more than to Republicans, according to Opensecrets.org. The liberal journalism institute Poynter, funded by liberal billionaire George Soros, promoted an advertising blacklist drawn up by an employee of the Southern Poverty Law Center that targeted 29 conservative outlets.
Free speech lawyer and former California RNC vice chairwoman Harmeet Dhillon wrote for the Daily Caller, “it has become a commonplace belief among these paternalistic elites that the common man needs to be protected from raw, “unfiltered” news and opinion.”
In 2018, Microsoft announced its partnership with NewsGuard, “which will empower voters by providing them with high-quality information about the integrity and transparency of online news sites.” NewsGuard has also partnered with Peer39 to offer a service to brands to “target their ad campaigns on thousands of trusted news sources while avoiding misinformation sources flagged by NewsGuard’s team of trained journalists.”
Pro-life organizations like Live Action have suffered from NewsGuard’s “nutrition labels,” which warn readers to “proceed with caution.”