NewsGuard, a left-wing media monitoring organization which claims to rate the credibility of news websites, was awarded nearly $750,000 from the Department of Defense in 2021 according to publicly available records.
The revelation comes in the latest "Twitter Files" post by Matt Taibbi.
In a series of posts detailing internal communications among Twitter executives, Taibbi suggests a collaboration of government and the company of what appears to be a coordinated effort to censor or slant information available to the public and individuals — particularly conservatives.
Two U.S. agencies he identified included the State Department's Global Engagement Center and the Department of Defense.
Taibbi was concerned about the government grants to an organization that targets news outlets, writing:
"Some NGOs (non-governmental organizations), like the GEC-funded Global Disinformation Index or the DOD-funded Newsguard, not only seek content moderation but apply subjective 'risk' or 'reliability' scores to media outlets, which can result in reduction in revenue."
He continued: "Do we want government in this role?"
Government records show a purchase order from the Department of Defense amounting to $749,387 with the recipient listed as NewsGuard Technologies Inc. Also listed: a start date of Sept. 7, 2021, and an end date of Dec. 8, 2022.
The company's ratings have been used by advertising agencies such as Publics Group and Magnite, as well as the Pentagon and the American Federation of Teachers.
NewsGuard is a for-profit company founded in 2018 by Steve Brill, a media entrepreneur who has also been a long-time and prolific Democratic Party supporter, including having made donations to former Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Sen. Chuck Schumer.
The Media Research Center has examined NewsGuard's "ratings" system and found the service continually favors left-wing and liberal news outlets as "trusted" and negatively rates conservative ones as not reliable.
Newsguard negatively rates leading conservative outlets like Washington Times, Newsmax, Breitbart, Federalist, Epoch Times, Red State, Prager U, Daily Wire, and others.
Last week, Florida's CFO, Jimmy Patronis, wrote to Newsguard saying the company's actions are in line with the "environmental, social, and governance" (ESG) standards used by liberal organizations to blacklist groups that dissent from their views.
Patronis noted that that the Florida Legislature is targeting that in its upcoming session, and that NewsGuard's efforts appear to be a larger push to create "social credit scores" that will result in "debanking" and "deplatforming" private companies.
Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., who chairs the Republican Study Committee, questioned NewsGuard's neutrality in a letter sent to the AFT last year saying, "the organization regularly gave high marks to obviously progressive and left leaning outlets such as Occupy Democrats, The Nation, and Jacobin, which have published articles promoting progressive views on matters such as riots and property destruction and socialism."
According to Banks: "These are hardly unbiased entities, and any rating system that ranks them as such deserves our scrutiny. To make matters worse, NewsGuard has even ranked several Chinese state-run media outlets higher — that is, more trustworthy/truthful — than popular conservative U.S. news sources."
NewsGuard defended the contract, saying it was not "government funded."
"NewsGuard has been inaccurately described as a "U.S. government funded" entity — which is like saying Verizon is government-funded because some government agencies pay for its phone services," company spokesman Matt Skibinski said in an email.
"NewsGuard is a for-profit business. We sell licenses to clients to access our data about misinformation and disinformation sources and narratives. While most of our licensees are in the private sector, some government entities license our data about state-sponsored disinformation campaigns targeting Western democracies from places like China, Venezuela, and Russia. We are proud that our data is useful in countering Chinese and Russian disinformation on behalf of Western democracies."
Editor's Note: Marisa Herman contributed to this story.
Theodore Bunker ✉
Theodore Bunker, a Newsmax writer, has more than a decade covering news, media, and politics.
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