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Lawsuit accuses NewsGuard of working with Department of Defense to 'coerce news organizations to alter viewpoints'

  NewsGuard, which provides credibility ratings for news and information websites, has been sued by the Consortium for Independent Journalis...

 NewsGuard, which provides credibility ratings for news and information websites, has been sued by the Consortium for Independent Journalism for allegedly working with the Pentagon to "alter viewpoints" of news organizations and reporting media organizations to the government if they challenge U.S. foreign policy.

The group that runs Consortium News filed a complaint that alleged NewsGuard has been "acting jointly or in concert with the United States to coerce news organizations to alter viewpoints as to Ukraine and Russia, imposing a form of censorship and repression of views that differ or dissent from policies of the United States and its allies."

The nonprofit accused NewsGuard of First Amendment violations and defamation and requested $13 million in damages for said defamation and civil rights violations. As well, the plaintiff asked for a permanent injunction to stop the joint program between NewsGuard and the government.

As reported by TimCast, the complaint alleged that in "direct violation of the First Amendment," NewsGuard has engaged in the 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." 

"This is accomplished by a contract between NewsGuard’s 'Misinformation Fingerprints' program and the Department of Defense Cyber Command, an element of the Intelligence Community," the lawsuit stated. “Under this 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 labeled as ‘anti-U.S.,’ purveyors of Russian ‘misinformation’ and propaganda, publishing ‘false content’ and failing to meet journalistic standards.”

NewsGuard general manager Matt Skibinski told TimCast that “NewsGuard has never worked with any government to suppress, censor, or block any content of any kind."

NewsGuard's "limited work with government agencies has been centered on helping to identify and track false narratives emanating from state-sponsored media sources such as Iran, China, and Russia – and these projects are completely separate from and unrelated to our ratings of news sources," the representative claimed.

Skibinski said that NewsGuard does not lower credibility scores if a website disagrees with U.S. government policy.

“We rate publishers using publicly disclosed, apolitical journalistic criteria, and we publish the evidence and rationale behind our assessment of each publisher we rate, along with any comments from the publisher, so that each reader can see and decide for themselves.”

A Consortium News press release reportedly claimed that NewsGuard labeled Consortium News' website as "[producing] ‘disinformation,’ ‘false content’ and is an ‘anti-U.S.’ media organization, even though NewsGuard only took issue with a total of six CN articles and none of its videos.”

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