(LifeSiteNews) — The investigative magazine Consortium News is suing online “watchdog” NewsGuard and the U.S. government for defamation and restricting freedom of speech.
On October 23, Consortium News filed a lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan accusing NewsGuard and the Department of Defense of “First Amendment violations and defamation.”
NewsGuard acts as an “online watchdog,” providing a rating system for the alleged reliability of news outlets. The organization claims to be “apolitical,” but it has shown a clear bias against conservative and alternative news outlets while giving mainstream media outlets perfect ratings.
The Pentagon is included in Consortium’s lawsuit after the Department of Defense awarded NewsGuard $750,000 in 2021 for its project “Misinformation Fingerprints,” which aims to combat what it calls “a catalogue of known hoaxes, falsehoods and misinformation narratives that are spreading online.”
Consortium News, founded by award-winning journalist Robert Parry, is known for criticizing U.S. foreign policy, especially regarding the Russia-Ukraine war.
An allegedly “neutral” ratings organization like NewsGuard receiving funding from the Pentagon represents an apparent conflict of interest when assessing news regarding U.S. foreign policy and could explain why NewsGuard rates Consortium News and others as unreliable sources.
“The First Amendment rights of all American media are threatened by this arrangement with the Defense Department to defame and abridge the speech of U.S. media groups,” Consortium News’ attorney Bruce Afran said.
“When media groups are condemned by the government as ‘anti-U.S.’ and are accused of publishing ‘false content’ because they disagree with U.S. policies, the result is self-censorship and a destruction of the public debate intended by the First Amendment,” Afran added.
In addition to the U.S. government, NewsGuard is also collaborating with the European Union. In February 2022, the organization announced “a collaboration with the Joint Research Centre, the European Commission’s science and knowledge service, to provide the EC service with its data monitoring that tracks online misinformation.”
According to former Trump State Department official Michael Benz, NewsGuard worked with the EU in developing its new online censorship bill known as the Digital Service Act (DSA).
Tech billionaire Elon Musk, whose platform X (formerly Twitter) is currently being investigated for spreading “disinformation” under the DSA, has called NewsGuard a “scam” that “should be disbanded immediately” after learning about its cooperation with the European Union’s online regulators. Musk later added that NewsGuard is “[p]ushing a political agenda in the name of ‘guarding’ the public.”
NewsGuard is spreading falsehoods and enforcing the government’s narrative
In its 2022 “Misinformation White Paper,” NewsGuard alluded to the fact that stances questioning establishment positions lead to poor ratings, writing that “a large number of NewsGuard red-rated sites during the German Federal Election in 2021” were “proliferating anti-vaccination, anti-lockdown, and anti-climate protection content.”
The conservative media organization PragerU has told The Epoch Times that it was asked by NewsGuard “to stop criticizing the COVID-19 lockdown policies, stop questioning the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines,” and “stop talking about any COVID-19 treatments not endorsed by the government” as a condition of having its red label lifted.
In the negative “Nutrition Label” that LifeSiteNews has received, NewsGuard wrongly claimed that a “July 2018 piece headlined ‘Republican bill would stop US embassies flying gay ‘pride’ flags’ does not note that the legislation bans the flying of any flag other than the American flag.” In fact, the report in question notes precisely that in its opening sentence and two additional times in the body of the article.
In 2020, NewsGuard co-founder Steven Brill appeared on national television and stated that the infamous Hunter Biden laptop is likely “a hoax, maybe even a hoax perpetrated by the Russians again,” repeating the false claim that the laptop was a Russian “hack and leak” operation.