WEST PALM BEACH, FL – NewsGuard Technologies, Inc., which claims it is in the business of policing the Internet and protecting users from misinformation, is more than a web tool for its users. The service rates websites either positively or negatively and assigns “Nutrition Labels” to publications. Its negative ratings mostly score conservative websites poorly such as what has been assigned to Breitbart, Newsmax, One America News Network (OAN), The Epoch Times, etc. Its negative ratings are often the result of stories about COVID-19’s likely lab leak theory, positive information related to the effectiveness of HCQ or Hydroxychloroquine, anything related to vaccine hesitancy, anti-Bill Gates (Microsoft is a founding financier of NewsGuard), a deep-state or ‘pro-trump’ material – all of which is considered ‘right leaning’ and, in most if not all cases, given a poor rating (the red exclamation point icon). This icon pops up in web searches, browsers and on social media sites.
Late last year, The Published Reporter was rated poorly, for the most part, due to its publication of a controversial video which suggested a lab leak was possible as well as for publishing information including the “likely” effectiveness of Hydroxychloroquine (two hotly debated issues that do not fit the ordinary mainstream narrative). At one time, any publications which even touched on these ideas were quickly labeled misinformation while both were highly supported even by health experts, studies, and in the case of the lab leak, even Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who stated he personally believes, from what he has seen, a lab-leak is responsible.
When a site is rated poorly, NewsGuard users, via a browser plugin, can quickly ascertain that a site or even a link to a web site should not be trusted or visited. But what is happening behind the scenes is even more sinister.
NewsGuard is contracting out with companies, ad-networks, search engines and syndication tools, so that these “misinformation pushers” or ‘truth tellers,’ – you decide, can be excluded, removed, not provided services to, and effectively deplatformed and demonetized. It is happening in mass, and this process is being used to banish most if not all conservative content, and what’s very scary, is that it is working.
This process will cause publications to struggle financially and see their traffic and visitors decline. It should be able to put some out of business, and/or cause others to spring up under new ‘rating-less’ names.
It does not matter the age, size or overall credibility of the publication. Publishers could have 54,000 articles which are journalistic masterpieces, yet six questionable stories could have it rated as “irresponsibly and repeatedly publishing false content” as is with the example above of Newsmax, which is viewed in 70 million homes and has been reporting for over two decades.
With a newly assigned poor rating, publications begin being removed and censored across all sorts of platforms including news syndication apps. For example, The Published Reporter has seen its internet traffic and ad revenue down 85% with its new poor rating being used to exclude it from platforms. From a high of 554K readers in February 2021, to 93k in June 2021 reflecting an unsustainable loss of business. In my opinion, these actions border on Tortious interference.
I suspected this a year ago when Google rolled out its new TOS on news APPS. The new terms of service require syndication platforms (or news apps) to remove publishers who host “objectionable” user-generated content or UGC. User-generated content (UGC) is content that users contribute to an app, and which is visible to or accessible by at least a subset of the app’s users. For example, any news apps which host or include content from The Published Reporter, are at risk of being removed from the Google Play store. I now have an inside look at what NewsGuard is really all about. It’s awfully bad news for conservative publishers and has much further reach than most realize based on its corporate partners.
Something needs to be done about it.
According to a Wikipedia reference, which is based on an interview with the company’s co-founder Steve Brill, “NewsGuard attempts to work with sites they label as unreliable to advise them on how to come into compliance with their criteria,” however, this is not the case from several emails back and forth with the lead NewsGuard journalist and his editor who rated the Published Reporter poorly. Zero assistance was offered upon several implementations of changes as well as suggestions for future changes. Example, all opinion articles now lead with “Op-Ed” or “OPINION” in addition to numerous and varying disclosures, disclaimers and labeling of materials where appropriate. Additionally, no suggestions were made on how to come into better compliance and no corrections were made to errors in their report; I was told only that corrections would be made upon its next editorial review which typically happens yearly.
In my opinion, NewsGuard is not a user trust and rating tool. It is a severally bias elimination of conservative views tool fueled by a far left propaganda machine to change the internet into an echo-chamber of traditional news media. For corporations it serves as a mechanism to offload censorship decision-making and liability to a third party provider, sort of how Facebook fact-checks material with fact checkers which are often said to hold considerable bias or are outright inaccurate; its a free speech stifler and its intent is large scale removal and banishment of sites and services which maintain alternative views – those which do not fit the ordinary mainstream narrative.
I feel certain that NewsGuard reviewers already know what rating they are tasked to give a publication prior to reviewing it and look for the worst offending material to pull it off.
Third parties must not be permitted to eliminate free speech and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Have a problem, similar experience, or complaint about NewsGuard censorship? Let me know about it.
About The Author: John Colascione is Chief Executive Officer of Internet Marketing Services Inc. He specializes in Website Monetization, is a Google AdWords Certified Professional, authored a ‘how to’ book called ”Mastering Your Website‘, and is a key player in several Internet related businesses through his search engine strategy brand Searchen Networks®