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Federal government 'disinformation' arbiter NewsGuard sued for alleged First Amendment violation

The lawsuit by left-leaning Consortium News comes after calls last week from Elon Musk for NewsGuard to be disbanded, conservatives claim biased ratings from company. (CORRECTION: Added citation to Perry statement, added Perry's date of death)

Published: October 23, 2023 2:10pm

Updated: October 25, 2023 3:24pm

The federal government and NewsGuard Technologies Inc., the for-profit entity dedicated to ferreting "misinformation" in the news media, were sued Monday for alleged defamation and First Amendment violations.

The suit was filed in the Southern District of New York by the Consortium for Independent Journalists.

The group publishes Consortium News, which the founder, the late Associated Press journalist Robert Perry, said in 2020 that he started it roughly 25 years ago as an alternative to the groupthink of the mainstream media. Perry died in 2018.

The U.S. and NewsGuard are "engaged in a pattern and practice of labelling, stigmatizing and defaming American media organizations that oppose or dissent from American foreign and defense policy, particularly as to Russia and Ukraine,” according to the lawsuit. 

The suit further alleges such efforts are accomplished by "a contract between NewsGuard’s 'Misinformation Fingerprints' program and the Department of Defense Cyber Command, an element of the Intelligence Community.”

According to the suit, under the agreement, media organizations that challenge or dispute U.S. foreign and defense policy as to Russia and Ukraine are "reported to the government by NewsGuard and labelled as 'anti-U.S.', purveyors of Russian 'misinformation' and propaganda, publishing 'false content' and failing to meet journalistic standards.”

You can read the lawsuit below:

 

NewsGuard has applied its “misinformation” labels to six articles in total from Consortium News. However, the labels appear to a user when accessing any of the outlets 20,000-plus article archive, “thereby defaming the entirety of the news organization’s output,” according to the suit.

Consortium News also highlights that since its founding in 2018, NewsGuard had not contacted Consortium News about any of its content. Yet in March 2022, after NewsGuard singed a contract with U.S. Cyber Command, the 'watchdog' contacted Consortium about articles related to the Russo-Ukrainian war covering subjects that NewsGuard labeled as “myths,” according to an exhibit filed with the court documents.

 

This comes after calls by Elon Musk last week for NewsGuard to be “disbanded,” following conservative organizations and commentators raising concerns about the company’s ratings system that they allege is bias and punishes dissent from the “approved narrative,” – as one for the organizations, PragerU, asserted.

NewsGuard disputed the claims of the conservatives in a statement provided to Just the News last week, which you can read here.