WEST PALM BEACH, FL – NewsGuard, a journalism and technology tool that purportedly rates the credibility of news and information websites and tracks online misinformation, was called out this week by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who referred to it as being part of what he called the “censorship industrial complex,” especially in regard to conservative viewpoints.
NewsGuard, founded in 2018 and funded by the U.S. federal government, offers “trust ratings” for news websites based on nine criteria related to a source’s journalistic practices; however, critics of the service have argued that if a site earns negative ratings, NewsGuard will actually work to drive advertising revenue away from the “disfavored” publication and toward ones that they actively favor.
The vast majority of the sites losing advertising revenue as a result of NewsGuard’s practices are said to be conservative publications, costing them valuable traffic and taking jobs away from their reporters and staff.
Some of the criteria that NewsGuard claims to utilize to judge a site includes their frequency of inaccurate information; their sourcing and original reporting of information; the balance of news and opinion in their journalism; headline accuracy, and several other factors.
The degree of which sites are singled out more than others when judged on this information – and how fairly – has been a hot-button topic as of late, and at a House Weaponization of the Federal Government Committee hearing held on Thursday, Rep. Gaetz spoke on NewsGuard’s alleged bias in favor of left-leaning publications as the expense of conservative and right-leaning ones.
“What I’m used to in this town is that government officials pick their favorite outlets, and they give them the best scoops, they give them the best stories. There’s a fusion of media and government that has long made me uncomfortable,” he said. “But what we’re describing now is literally the directing of revenue to certain media companies over other media companies, designed and implemented with U.S. government funding and support.”
Referring to NewsGuard as part of the “censorship industrial complex,” Gaetz called for a House investigation into the company’s activities, especially regarding allegations that they actively work to silence conservative voices and viewpoints on the internet.
“If we do not take a look at NewsGuard, we have failed,” he said. [Listen]
Currently, NewsGuard says it has rated more than 6,000 news sites that account for 95% of online engagement with news in the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany and Italy.