In the landscape of digital information, the battle against misinformation has become the pretext for the emergence of new industries designed to control the free flow of information. Among them is NewsGuard, a company that has ostensibly taken up the mantle to guard the public against falsehoods in our news. However, scrutiny of its financing sources raises questions about its impartiality and the broader implications for free speech.
NewsGuard, self-described as a for-profit “fact-checking” entity, has been significantly backed by entities with vested interests in censorship, including Big Pharma corporations. NewsGuard has also proudly defended its claimed mission to help the American Federation of Teachers navigate the murky waters of online disinformation. Yet, one cannot help but ponder the influence such backers have on its operations.
Big Pharma financing NewsGuard's for-profit business monitoring news truthfulness – https://t.co/byuhIKwsfO
— The Washington Times (@WashTimes) November 18, 2023
With the methodology of rating news websites under fire for potential bias, NewsGuard’s credentials are further questioned by its association with donors like the Clinton family and organizations like the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), casting a shadow over its proclaimed neutrality.
It doesn’t end there. The U.S. Defense Department has contracted NewsGuard, with a hefty sum of $750,000, to monitor online “misinformation” trends, a term increasingly scrutinized for its broad application against inconvenient narratives. Moreover, NewsGuard’s alleged conflict of interest is highlighted by Dr. Joseph Mercola, pointing out its position as a global arbiter of “trustworthy” information while being backed by Big Pharma and other influential entities.
The implications are significant. NewsGuard’s ratings can steer advertisers away from certain websites, potentially crippling them financially. This power to affect the livelihood of news platforms could be seen as a form of economic censorship, where dissenting voices are penalized for not aligning with a particular agenda. This dynamic poses a stark question — Can an organization, funded by the very industries it might need to scrutinize, honestly act independently?
Consider the case of NewsGuard’s approach to the Daily Sceptic. This site has been critical of lockdowns, mandates and vaccine safety. Its editor-in-chief, Toby Young, points to NewsGuard as a “sinister organization” that aims to censor rather than engage in a dialogue. After a series of exchanges with NewsGuard, the Daily Sceptic’s rating plummeted, leading to a near-total advertising revenue loss.
This event speaks to a larger concern: If the funders of a gatekeeper like NewsGuard stand to benefit from the suppression of certain viewpoints, the ethical lines become blurred. The situation with the Daily Sceptic is not isolated. Other health-focused sites like Mercola have faced similar treatment, being flagged for questioning the official COVID-19 narrative.
The defense from NewsGuard’s General Manager, Matt Skibinski, that the company does not censor content but instead provides assessments rings hollow in the face of such tangible consequences for the rated news outlets.
Ultimately, the issue at hand transcends the fact-checking mission of NewsGuard. It touches on the fundamental principles of journalistic freedom and the right to question prevailing narratives without facing institutional retribution. As the financial ties between NewsGuard and Big Pharma surface, the skepticism about NewsGuard’s true objectives grows, suggesting a need for a more transparent and less conflicted watchdog in news truthfulness.