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NewsGuard Launches War on Alternative Media

NewsGuard Launches War on Alternative Media

By Whitney Webb –

(MPN) — Quickly after the social media “purge” of unbiased media websites and pages this previous October, a prime neoconservative insider — Jamie Fly — was caught stating that the mass deletion of anti-establishment and anti-war pages on Fb and Twitter was “just the start” of a concerted effort by the U.S. authorities and highly effective firms to silence on-line dissent inside the USA and past.

Whereas a number of, comparatively uneventful months within the on-line information sphere have come and gone since Fly made this ominous warning, it seems that the neoconservatives and different commonplace bearers of the military-industrial complicated and the U.S. oligarchy at the moment are poised to let unfastened their newest digital offensive towards unbiased media retailers that search to show wrongdoing in each the personal and public sectors.

As MintPress Information Editor-in-Chief Mnar Muhawesh lately wrote, MintPress was knowledgeable that it was underneath evaluation by a corporation referred to as NewsGuard Applied sciences, which described itself to MintPress as merely a “information score company” and requested Muhawesh to touch upon a collection of allegations, a number of of which have been blatantly unfaithful. Nevertheless, additional examination of this group reveals that it’s funded by and deeply related to the U.S. authorities, neo-conservatives, and highly effective monied pursuits, all of whom have been working additional time because the 2016 election to silence dissent to American forever-wars and corporate-led oligarchy.

Extra troubling nonetheless, NewsGuard — by advantage of its deep connections to authorities and Silicon Valley — is lobbying to have its rankings of stories websites put in by default on computer systems in U.S. public libraries, faculties, and universities in addition to on all smartphones and computer systems bought in america.

In different phrases, as NewsGuard ’s venture advances, it can quickly grow to be virtually unattainable to keep away from this neocon-approved information website’s rating techniques on any technological system bought in america. Worse nonetheless, if its efforts to quash dissenting voices within the U.S. are profitable, NewsGuard guarantees that its subsequent transfer can be to take its system international.

Purple mild, inexperienced mild . . .

NewsGuard has acquired appreciable consideration within the mainstream media of late, having been the topic of a slew of articles within the Washington Submit, the Hill, the Boston Globe, Politico, Bloomberg, Wired, and lots of others simply over the previous few months. These articles painting NewsGuard as utilizing “old-school journalism” to struggle “pretend information” via its reliance on 9 standards allegedly meant to separate the wheat from the chaff on the subject of on-line information.

NewsGuard separates websites it deems worthy and websites it considers unreliable through the use of a color-coded score — inexperienced, yellow, or purple — and extra detailed “vitamin labels” relating to a website’s credibility or lack thereof. Rankings are created by NewsGuard’s staff of “educated analysts.” The colour-coding system might remind some readers of the color-coded terror threat-level warning system that was created after 9/11, making it value noting that Tom Ridge, the previous secretary of Homeland Safety who oversaw the implementation of that system underneath George W. Bush, is on NewsGuard’s advisory board.

As NewsGuard releases a brand new score of a website, that score routinely spreads to all computer systems which have put in its information rating browser plug-in. That plug-in is presently out there totally free for probably the most generally used web browsers. NewsGuard immediately markets the browser plug-in to libraries, faculties and web customers usually.

In accordance with its web site, NewsGuard has rated greater than 2,000 information and knowledge websites. Nevertheless, it plans to take its rating efforts a lot farther by ultimately reviewing “the 7,500 most-read information and knowledge web sites within the U.S.—about 98 % of stories and knowledge individuals learn and share on-line” in the USA in English.

A current Gallup research, which was supported and funded by NewsGuard in addition to the Knight Basis (itself a serious investor in NewsGuard ), said that a inexperienced score elevated customers probability to share and skim content material whereas a pink score decreased that probability. Particularly, it discovered 63 % can be much less more likely to share information tales from red-rated web sites, and 56 % can be extra more likely to share information from green-rated web sites, although the truth that NewsGuard and one among its prime buyers funded the ballot makes it essential to take these findings with a grain of salt.

Nevertheless, a few of the rankings NewsGuard itself has publicized present that it’s manifestly tired of preventing “misinformation.” How else to elucidate the truth that the Washington Publish and CNN each acquired excessive scores despite the fact that each have written tales or made statements that later proved to be totally false? For instance, CNN falsely claimed in 2016 that it was unlawful for People to learn WikiLeaks releases and illegally colluded with the DNC to craft presidential debate questions.

As well as, in 2017, CNN revealed a pretend story that a Russian financial institution linked to an in depth ally of President Donald Trump was underneath Senate investigation. That very same yr, CNN was pressured to retract a report that the Trump marketing campaign had been tipped off early about WikiLeaks paperwork damaging to Hillary Clinton when it later discovered the alert was about materials already publicly out there.

The Washington Submit, whose $600 million battle of curiosity with the CIA goes unnoted by NewsGuard , has additionally revealed false tales because the 2016 election, together with one article that falsely claimed that “Russian hackers” had tapped into Vermont’s electrical grid. It was later discovered that the grid itself was by no means breached and the “hack” was solely an remoted laptop computer with a minor malware drawback. But, such acts of journalistic malpractice are apparently of little concern to Newsguard when these committing such acts are big-name company media retailers.

Moreover, NewsGuard provides a excessive score to Voice of America, the U.S. state-funded media outlet, despite the fact that its former appearing affiliate director stated that the outlet produces “fluff journalism” and even if it was just lately reformed to “present information that helps our [U.S.] nationwide safety aims.” Nevertheless, RT receives a low “purple” score for being funded by the Russian authorities and for “elevating doubts about different nations and their establishments” (i.e., together with reporting important of the establishments and governments of the U.S. and its allies).

Retaining the dialog protected for the corporatocracy

NewsGuard describes itself as a corporation devoted to “restoring belief and accountability” and utilizing “journalism to struggle false information, misinformation and disinformation.” Whereas it repeatedly claims on its web site that its staff “haven’t any political axes to grind” and “care deeply about dependable journalism’s pivotal position in democracy,” a fast take a look at its co-founders, prime funders and advisory board make it clear that NewsGuard is aimed toward curbing voices that maintain the highly effective — in each authorities and the personal sector — to account.

NewsGuard is the newest enterprise to outcome from the partnership between Steven Brill and Louis Gordon Crovitz, who at present function co-CEOs of the group. Brill is a long-time journalist —  revealed in TIME and The New Yorker, amongst others — who most just lately based the Yale Journalism Initiative, which goals to encourage Yale college students who “aspire to contribute to democracy in america and around the globe” to turn out to be journalists at prime U.S. and worldwide media organizations. He first teamed up with Crovitz in 2009 to create Journalism On-line, which sought to make the web presence of prime American newspapers and different publishers worthwhile, and was additionally the CEO of the corporate that partnered up with the TSA to supply “registered” vacationers the power to maneuver extra shortly by means of airport safety — for a worth, in fact.

Whereas Brill’s previous doesn’t in itself increase pink flags, Crovitz — his companion in founding Journalism On-line, then Press+, and now NewsGuard — is the final individual one would look forward to finding selling any respectable effort to “restore belief and accountability” in journalism. Within the early 1980s. Crovitz held various positions at Dow Jones and on the Wall Road Journal, ultimately turning into government vice chairman of the previous and the writer of the latter earlier than each have been bought to Rupert Murdoch’s Information Corp in 2007. He’s additionally a board member of Enterprise Insider, which has acquired over $30 million from Washington Publish proprietor Jeff Bezos in recent times.

Along with being a member of the Council on Overseas Relations, Crovitz proudly notes in his bio, obtainable on NewsGuard’s web site, that he has been an “editor or contributor to books revealed by the American Enterprise Institute and Heritage Basis.” Although many MintPress readers are probably acquainted with these two establishments, for many who usually are not, it’s value stating that the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is likely one of the most influential neoconservative assume tanks within the nation and its “students,” administrators and fellows have included neoconservative figures like Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, John Bolton and Frederick Kagan.

Through the George W. Bush administration, AEI was instrumental in selling the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq and has since advocated for militaristic options to U.S. overseas coverage goals and the enlargement of the U.S.’ army empire in addition to the “Struggle on Terror.” In the course of the Bush years, AEI was additionally intently related to the now defunct and controversial neoconservative group referred to as the Venture for a New American Century (PNAC), which presciently referred to as, 4 years earlier than 9/11, for a “new Pearl Harbor” as wanted to rally help behind American army adventurism.

The Heritage Basis, like AEI, was additionally supportive of the warfare in Iraq and has pushed for the enlargement of the Struggle on Terror and U.S. missile protection and army empire. Its company donors through the years have included Procter & Gamble, Chase Manhattan Financial institution, Dow Chemical, and Exxon Mobil, amongst others.

Crovitz’s associations with AEI and the Heritage Basis, in addition to his ties to Wall Road and the higher echelons of company media, are sufficient to make any considering individual query his dedication to being a good watchdog of “official journalism.” But, past his innumerable connections to neoconservatives and highly effective monied curiosity, Crovitz has repeatedly been accused of inserting misinformation into his Wall Road Journal columns, with teams just like the Digital Frontier Basis accusing him of “repeatedly getting his information incorrect” on NSA surveillance and different points. A few of the blatant falsehoods which have appeared in Crovitz’s work have by no means been corrected, even when his personal sources referred to as him out for misinformation.

For instance, in a WSJ opinion piece that was written by Crovitz in 2012, Crovitz was accused of creating “fantastically false claims” concerning the historical past of the web by the very individuals he had cited to help these claims.

As TechDirt wrote on the time:

Virtually everybody he [Crovitz] sourced or credited to help his argument that the web was invented completely privately at Xerox PARC and when Vint Cerf helped create TCP/IP, has spoken out to say he’s improper. And that listing consists of each Vint Cerf, himself, and Xerox. Different sources, together with Robert Taylor (who was there when the web was invented) and Michael Hiltzik, have rejected Crovitz’s spinning of their very own tales.”

The oligarch group’s deep bench

Whereas Brill and Crovitz’s connections alone must be sufficient trigger for alarm, a cursory examination of NewsGuard’s advisory board makes it clear that NewsGuard was created to serve the pursuits of American oligarchy. Chief amongst NewsGuard’s advisors are Tom Ridge, the primary Secretary of Homeland Safety underneath George W. Bush and Ret. Basic Michael Hayden, a former CIA director, a former NSA director and principal at the Chertoff Group, a safety consultancy looking for to “advise company shoppers and governments, together with overseas governments” on safety issues that was co-founded by former Homeland Safety Secretary Michael Chertoff, who additionally presently serves because the board chairman of main weapons producer BAE techniques.

One other NewsGuard advisor of word is Richard Stengel, former editor of Time journal, a “distinguished fellow” on the Atlantic Council and Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy beneath President Barack Obama. At a panel dialogue hosted final Might by the Council on Overseas Relations, Stengel described his previous place on the State Division as “chief propagandist” and in addition said that he’s “not towards propaganda. Each nation does it they usually should do it to their very own inhabitants and I don’t essentially assume it’s that terrible.”

Different NewsGuard advisors embrace Don Baer, former White Home communications director and advisor to Invoice Clinton and present chairman of each PBS and the influential PR agency Burson Cohn & Wolfe in addition to Elise Jordan, former communications director for the Nationwide Safety Council and former speech-writer for Condoleezza Rice, in addition to the widow of slain journalist Michael Hastings — who was writing an exposé on former CIA director John Brennan on the time of his suspicious demise.

A take a look at NewsGuard’s buyers additional illustrates the multifarious connections between this group and the American political and company elite. Whereas Brill and Crovitz themselves are the corporate’s prime buyers, one in every of NewsGuard’s most necessary buyers is the Publicis Groupe. Publicis is the third largest international communications firm on the planet, with greater than 80,000 staff in over 100 nations and an annual income of over €9.6 billion ($10.98 billion) in 2017. It’s no stranger to controversy, as one in every of its subsidiaries, Qorvis, lately got here beneath hearth for exploiting U.S. veterans on the behest of the Saudi authorities and in addition helped the Saudi authorities to “whitewash” its human rights document and its genocidal conflict in Yemen after receiving $6 million from the Gulf Kingdom in 2017.

Moreover, given its measurement and affect, it’s unsurprising that the Publicis Groupe counts many highly effective firms and governments amongst its clientele. A few of its prime shoppers in 2018 included pharmaceutical giants Eli Lilly, Merck, Pfizer and Bayer/Monsanto in addition to Starbucks, Procter & Gamble, McDonald’s, Kraft Heinz, Burger King, and the governments of Australia and Saudi Arabia. Given its influential position in funding NewsGuard, it’s affordable to level out the potential battle of curiosity posed by the truth that websites that precisely report on Publicis’ highly effective shoppers — however generate dangerous publicity — could possibly be focused for such studies in NewsGuard’s rating.

Along with the Publicis Groupe, one other main investor in NewsGuard is the Blue Haven Initiative, which is the enterprise capital “impression funding” fund of the rich Pritzker household — one of many prime 10 wealthiest households within the U.S., greatest often known as the house owners of the Hyatt Lodge chain and for being the second largest monetary contributors to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential marketing campaign.

Different prime buyers embrace John McCarter, a long-time government at U.S. authorities contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, in addition to Thomas Glocer, former CEO of Reuters and a member of the boards of pharmaceutical big Merck & Co., monetary behemoth Morgan Stanley, and the Council on Overseas Relations, in addition to a member of the Atlantic Council’s Worldwide Advisory Board.

By way of these buyers, NewsGuard managed to boost $6 million to start its rating efforts in March of 2018. NewsGuard’s precise revenues and financing, nevertheless, haven’t been disclosed although it requires the websites it ranks to reveal their funding. In a show of pure hypocrisy, NewsGuard’s United States Securities and Trade Fee Type D — which was filed March 5, 2018 — states that the corporate “declined to reveal” the dimensions of its complete income.

Why give people a selection?

Whereas even a fast look at its advisory board alone can be sufficient for a lot of People to say no to put in NewsGuard’s browser extension on their units, the hazard of NewsGuard is the truth that it’s diligently working to make the adoption of its app involuntary. Certainly, if voluntary adoption of NewsGuard’s app have been the case, there would probably be little trigger for concern, provided that its web site attracts barely greater than 300 visits per 30 days and its social-media following is comparatively small, with simply over 2,000 Twitter followers and barely 500 Fb likes on the time of this text’s publication.

For example its slip-it-under-the-radar technique, NewsGuard has gone on to state governments to push its browser extension onto complete state public library techniques, regardless that its web site means that particular person public libraries are welcome to put in the extension in the event that they so select. The primary state to put in NewsGuard on all of its public library computer systems throughout its 51 branches was the state of Hawaii — which was the primary to companion with NewsGuard’s “information literacy initiative,” simply final month.

In response to native media, NewsGuard “now works with library techniques representing public libraries throughout the nation, and can also be partnering with center faculties, excessive faculties, universities, and academic organizations to help their information literacy efforts,” suggesting that these NewsGuard providers concentrating on libraries and faculties are quickly to turn into a obligatory element of the American library and schooling system, regardless of NewsGuard’s obvious conflicts of curiosity with large multinational firms and highly effective authorities power-brokers.

Notably, NewsGuard has a strong associate that has allowed it to start out discovering its method into public library and faculty computer systems all through the nation. As a part of its new “Defending Democracy” initiative, Microsoft introduced final August that it will be partnering with NewsGuard to actively market the corporate’s rating app and different providers to libraries and faculties all through the nation. Microsoft’s press launch relating to the partnership states that Newsguard “will empower voters by offering them with high-quality details about the integrity and transparency of on-line information websites.”

Since then, Microsoft has now added the NewsGuard app as a built-in function of Microsoft Edge, its browser for iOS and Android cellular units, and is unlikely to cease there. Certainly, as a current report in favor of Microsoft’s partnership with Newsguard famous, “we might hope that this new partnership will permit Microsoft so as to add NewsGuard to Edge on Home windows 10 [operating system for computers] as nicely.”

NewsGuard , for its half, appears assured that its app will quickly be added by default to all cellular units. On its web site, the group notes that “NewsGuard shall be out there on cellular units when the digital platforms similar to social media websites and search engines like google and yahoo or cellular working methods add our scores and Vitamin Labels immediately.” This exhibits that Newsguard isn’t anticipating its score methods to be provided as a downloadable software for cellular units however one thing that social media websites like Fb, serps like Google, and cellular system working techniques which are dominated by Apple and Google will “immediately” combine into almost each smartphone and pill bought in america.

A Boston Globe article on NewsGuard from this previous October makes this plan much more clear. The Globe wrote on the time:

Microsoft has already agreed to make NewsGuard a built-in function in future merchandise, and [Newsguard co-CEO] Brill stated he’s in talks with different on-line titans. The objective is to have NewsGuard operating by default on our computer systems and telephones every time we scan the Net for information.”

This eventuality is made all of the extra probably given the truth that, along with Microsoft, NewsGuard can also be intently related to Google, as Google has been a companion of the Publicis Groupe since 2014, when the 2 large corporations joined Condé Nast to create a brand new advertising service referred to as La Maison that’s “targeted on producing partaking content material for entrepreneurs within the luxurious area.” Given Google’s energy within the digital sphere because the dominant search engine, the creator of the Android cellular working system, and the proprietor of YouTube, its partnership with Publicis signifies that NewsGuard ’s score system will quickly see itself being promoted by yet one more of Silicon Valley’s strongest corporations.

Moreover, there’s an effort underway to combine NewsGuard into social media websites like Fb and Twitter. Certainly, as NewsGuard was launched, co-CEO Brill said that he deliberate to promote the corporate’s scores of stories websites to Fb and Twitter. Final March, Brill informed CNN that “We’re asking them [Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Google] to pay a fraction of what they pay their P.R. individuals and their lobbyists to speak about the issue.”

On Wednesday, Gallup launched a ballot that may probably be used as a serious promoting level to social media giants. The ballot — funded by NewsGuard and the Knight Basis, which is a prime investor in NewsGuard and has lately funded a collection of Gallup polls referring to on-line information — appears to have been created with the intention of producing consent for the mixing of NewsGuard with prime social media websites.

It’s because the promoted findings from the research are as follows:“89% of customers of social media websites and 83% general need social media websites and search engines like google to combine NewsGuard scores and evaluations into their information feeds and search outcomes” and “69% would belief social media and search corporations extra in the event that they took the straightforward step of together with NewsGuard of their merchandise.” Nevertheless, a disclaimer on the finish of the ballot states that the outcomes, which have been based mostly on the responses of 706 individuals every of whom acquired $2 to take part, “will not be reflective of attitudes of the broader U.S grownup inhabitants.”

With belief at Fb nose-diving and Fb’s censorship of unbiased media already nicely underway, the findings of this ballot might properly be used to justify its integration into Fb’s platform. The connections of each NewsGuard and Fb to the Atlantic Council make this appear a given.

Monetary censorship

One other NewsGuard service exhibits that this group can also be looking for to hurt unbiased media financially by concentrating on on-line income. By way of a service referred to as “BrandGuard,” which it describes as a “model security device aimed toward serving to advertisers hold their manufacturers off of unreliable information and knowledge websites whereas giving them the reassurance they should help hundreds of Inexperienced-rated [i.e., NewsGuard-approved] information and knowledge websites, massive and small.”

On the time the service was introduced final November, NewsGuard co-CEO Brill said that the corporate was “in discussions with the advert tech companies, main businesses, and main advertisers” desperate to undertake a blacklist of stories websites deemed “unreliable” by NewsGuard. That is unsurprising given the main position of the Publicis Groupe, one of many world’s largest promoting and PR companies, has in funding NewsGuard. As a consequence, it appears probably that many, if not all, of Publicis’ shopper corporations will select to undertake this blacklist to assist crush most of the information websites which are unafraid to carry them accountable.

Additionally it is necessary to notice right here that Google’s connection to Publicis and thus NewsGuard might spell hassle for unbiased information pages that depend on Google AdSense for some or all of their ad-based income. Google AdSense has lengthy been concentrating on websites like MintPress by demonetizing articles for info or pictures it deemed controversial, together with demonetizing one article for together with a photograph displaying U.S. troopers concerned in torturing Iraqi detainees on the notorious Abu Ghraib jail.

Since then, Google — a U.S. army contractor — has repeatedly tried to shutter advert entry to MintPress articles that contain reporting that’s essential of U.S. empire and army enlargement. One article that has been repeatedly flagged by Google particulars what number of African-People have questioned whether or not the Ladies’s March has aided or harmed the development of African-People in the USA. Google has repeatedly claimed that the article, which was written by African-American writer and former Washington Publish bureau chief Jon Jeter, accommodates “harmful content material.”

Given Google’s already established follow of concentrating on factual reporting it deemed controversial by means of AdSense, Brandguard will doubtless supply the tech big simply the excuse it wants to chop off websites like MintPress, and different pages equally important of empire, altogether.

An motion plan for the real safety of journalism

Although it’s simply getting began, NewsGuard’s plan to insert its app into each gadget and main social-media community is a menace to any information website that often publishes info that rubs any of NewsGuard’s buyers, companions or advisors the improper approach. Given its plan to rank the English-language U.S. information websites that account for 98 % of U.S. digital information consumption, NewsGuard’s agenda is of the utmost concern to each unbiased media web page lively in america and past — given NewsGuard’s promise to take its venture international.

By linking up with former CIA and NSA administrators, Silicon Valley Giants, and large PR companies working for a few of the most controversial governments and firms on the planet, NewsGuard has betrayed the truth that it isn’t truly in search of to “restore belief and accountability” in journalism, however to “restore belief and accountability” in information retailers that shield the prevailing energy construction and assist defend the corporate-led oligarchy and military-industrial complicated from criticism.

Not solely is it making an attempt to tank the reputations of unbiased media via its biased rating system, Newsguard can also be in search of to assault these various voices financially and by slipping its rating system by default onto all computer systems and telephones bought within the U.S.

Nevertheless, NewsGuard and it agenda of guarding the institution from criticism might be stopped. By supporting unbiased media and unplugging from social media websites dedicated to censorship, like Fb and Twitter, we will strengthen the unbiased media group and maintain it afloat regardless of the unprecedented nature of those assaults on free speech and watchdog journalism.

Past that, a key approach to maintain NewsGuard and people behind it on their toes is to carry them to account by stating their clear conflicts of curiosity and hypocrisy and by derailing the narrative they’re rigorously crafting that NewsGuard is “non-partisan,” “reliable,” and true guardians towards the scourge of “pretend information.”

Whereas this report has sought to be a place to begin for such work, anybody involved about NewsGuard and its connections to the warfare machine and corrupt firms ought to really feel inspired to level out the group’s personal conflicts of pursuits and shady connections by way of its Twitter and Fb pages and the suggestions part on NewsGuard’s web site. The easiest way to defeat this new software of the neocons is to place them on discover and to proceed to show NewsGuard as a guardian of empire, not a guardian of journalism.

Supply: NewsGuard Launches Conflict on Various Media

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