‘What a scam!’: Elon Musk calls for the immediate disbandment of Orwellian media fact-checker NewsGuard

Elon Musk, whose commitment to free speech led him to buy Twitter and transform it into X, says NewsGuard, a liberal media fact-checker with ties to the U.S. Department of Defense, the State Department, and the World Health Organization (WHO), should be “disbanded immediately.”

Mike Benz, executive director of the Foundation for Freedom Online, brought the Orwellian organization to Musk’s attention in a Wednesday post on X.

“Elon, for your peripheral vision, [Wikipedia founder] Jimmy Wales advises NewsGuard, which is knee deep in a plot to get gov’ts to bankrupt alternative news,” Benz said. “NewsGuard worked w/ EU on new disinformation code. Its biz model has ‘disinformation compliance’ services w/ censorship laws it promotes.”

As BizPac Review has reported, NewsGuard employs a group of “trained journalists” to provide “trust ratings” on news sites such as BPR. Should a site receive red checks from NewsGuard, they face de-platforming and loss of critical advertising revenue.

According to their own website, NewsGuard has partnered with both the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of State — the very definition of “economic facism.”

“Our team of analysts reviews thousands of news and information sites, covering 95% of online engagement in each market, to certify trustworthy news sites while flagging untrustworthy domains that spread dangerous misinformation and conspiracy theories or pose as legitimate news sources,” NewsGuard says of its “BrandGuard” service.

BrandGuard is dedicated to “helping advertisers avoid risk from misinformation.”

“BrandGuard is the only humanly generated, constantly updated solution to help advertisers, agencies, and ad-tech companies make decisions adhering to their standards for advertising on credible news sites and avoiding misinformation sources,” NewsGuard claims.

Potential advertisers on a red-checked news site are warned to take their dollars elsewhere or to drop their current ads. Vendors, anxious to keep their own businesses free from repercussions, flee those “offending” sites or face boycotts from those who comply.

Not surprisingly, conservative news sites such as BPR are disproportionately labeled as “untrustworthy.”

And NewsGuard’s reach, as Benz pointed out, goes far beyond the United States.

“This is crazy!” Musk exclaimed in response to Benz’s post.

In a follow-up post, Musk tagged Thierry Breton, the current Commissioner for Internal Market of the European Union, and asked, “Is this true?”

“If so,” he added, “the people of Europe deserve an explanation.”

“Elon, there is no way EU censorship proponents can deny it,” Benz replied. “NewsGuard bragged about it. EU officers bragged about it. They had formal partnership together. All they can do now is hold their nose & hope their own voters never learn what’s been going on.”

Tim Pool, CEO of Timcast News, shared his own experience with NewsGuard.

“Newsguard gave us a strike because we ran 5 stories out of nearly 5,000 that quoted Trump,” he said. “They claimed that reporting on Trump’s statements was irresponsible because we should be fact checking him instead and Trump was wrong.

“They now claim we dont correct errors because we didnt respond to their false claims last month,” he continued. “The ‘nutrition label’ they wrote contained so many errors they had to repeatedly correct it and have refused to correct additional false statements while claiming we don’t correct errors despite doing so all the time. Meanwhile WSJ, NYT, and more ran fake stories out of Gaza and get 100%.”

The “nutrition labels” to which Pool referred are issued by NewsGuard and are based on “trust scores” for nine criteria:

  • Does not repeatedly publish false or egregiously misleading content
  • Gathers and presents information responsibly
  • Regularly corrects or clarifies errors
  • Handles the difference between news and opinion responsibly
  • Avoids deceptive headlines
  • Website discloses ownership and financing
  • Clearly labels advertising
  • Reveals who’s in charge, including possible conflicts of interest
  • The site provides the names of content creators, along with either contact or biographical information

“Each site is rated using nine basic, apolitical criteria of journalistic practice. Based on the nine criteria, each site gets a trust score of 0-100 points and a detailed ‘Nutrition Label’ review explaining who is behind the site, what kind of content it publishes, and why it received its rating — with specific examples of any trust issues our team found,” NewsGuard states.

Editors who find themselves in NewsGuard’s crosshairs are bombarded with questions from their assigned NewsGuard “journalist,” who crawls through every article and demands to know why it didn’t comply with the mainstream media’s narrative.

BPR can confirm that they often misquote the articles they don’t like.

The process of correcting NewsGuard and defending published pieces involves hours of fact-checking the so-called fact-checkers, but many news sites feel they don’t have a choice but to fight for every point or cave to NewsGuard’s demands.

If they don’t, they risk losing advertisers, vendors, and readers — a move that has the potential to put targetted news outlets out of business.

“What a scam!” Musk told Pool. “‘Newsguard’ should be disbanded immediately.”

Conservative radio host Wayne Dupree chimed in on the conversation, claiming that NewsGuard acts “maliciously.”

“Since 2020, Newsguard has purposely and maliciously provided negative feedback for my website (which called out mainstream media for lying to American public and even quoted them) which was disseminated to various advertisers cutting revenue next to nothing and got away with it,” he said. “But they give mainstream media websites great passing grades.”

“Disband Newsguard!” Musk replied. “Anything with a name that sounds like it came out of an Orwell novel should never be trusted.”

Newsmax reached out to NewsGuard’s general manager, Matt Skibinski, for his response to Musk’s statements.

“NewsGuard was created as an alternative to the black-box algorithms that decide which news content is promoted and which is not on Big Tech platforms — and as an alternative to any government censorship of content,” he told the outlet.

Skibinski pointed to the organization’s “set of criteria,” but he “did not deny that determinations are highly subjective or that Newsguard skews in favor of liberal news outlets,” according to Newsmax.

A December 2021 study from the Media Research Center found that “liberal outlets were rated 27 points higher on average than news organizations on the right” by NewsGuard’s “trust scores” rating system.

“Another Center study of NewsGuard released in 2022 found a similar liberal bias to their rankings,” Newsmax reports.

Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy in March called out NewsGuard for its biased ratings.

“All the liberal sites like CNN and New York Times get great scores no matter what they do,” he said during an interview at the Conservative Political Action Conference. “Think about what CNN did — all the problems, the scandals, the Cuomos, the Russian collusion — and they’re among the highest-rated by NewsGuard.”

Meanwhile, NewsGuard on Thursday took a swing at Musk’s platform, calling “verified” X accounts “superspreaders of misinformation” about the Israel-Hamas war.

“A NewsGuard analysis found that ‘verified’ accounts on X are superspreaders of misinformation about the conflict, boosting falsehoods while displaying a ‘verification’ blue checkmark that verifies nothing,” the organization stated.

“When faced with criticism that his sweeping changes have led to increased misinformation on the platform, Musk often touts his expansion of X’s crowdsourced fact-checking feature, called ‘Community Notes,'” NewsGuard wrote. “However, NewsGuard found that just 79 of the 250 posts advancing misinformation about the war were flagged by the platform with a Community Note. That means that a note appeared approximately 32 percent of the time on some of the platform’s most prominent and harmful misinformation posts.”

According to NewsGuard, those who pay X’s $8 per month subscription fee for a “verified” blue checkmark “have their posts prioritized by the algorithm used by X.”

“This means that they appear higher, with greater prominence, in users’ replies and search results,” NewsGuard explained.

“That decision turned out to be a boon for bad actors sharing misinformation about the Israel-Hamas War,” according to the fact-checkers. “For less than the cost of a movie ticket, they have gained the added credibility associated with the once-prestigious blue checkmark and enabling them to reach a larger audience on the platform.”


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