Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

This Is Why You Can’t Trust The Fact Checkers

By Derrick Broze | The Last American Vagabond | May 11, 2020

For the last eight years I have worked as a writer, researcher, and investigative reporter for many well-known American independent media outlets. I have spent my time investigating digital surveillance technology, attacks on indigenous communities, and the overall growth of the government and corporate power. As someone working in this field, writing about topics which are often seen as controversial or “outside the mainstream” – censorship and personal attacks are part of the job description.

However, the attacks on independent media have rapidly increased in the last four years, with many formerly active journalistic outlets ceasing to exist due to lack of traffic and thus, lack of funds. We have seen outlets outright branded “fake news” or accused of collusion with the Russian government. Some channels and websites have been unable to apply for advertising or use certain digital products based on these labels. Some channels and reporters have been deleted off social media and other digital platforms altogether. And, if the social media managers don’t delete you, they might just use the algorithm to hide your posts, limiting your ability to interact with the public.

Attack of the “Fact” Checkers

Perhaps the most insidious method is the recent use of “fact checkers” to limit the reach of an outlet, or simply brand them with the fake news scarlet letter to discourage readers from engaging. This has been increasing in the last 2 years and I personally know of several remaining indy media outlets who have had to decide whether or not to run certain articles or video reports out of fear they might be censored or banned. Of course, with the algorithmic games being played by social media platforms, most outlets are reaching a tiny fraction of what they once were.

Case in point, The Mind Unleashed. I have been part of the TMU team on and off for the last year or so. In that time we have been struggling to reach a small fraction of our 9 million Facebook followers. Part of the reason we are struggling to reach people is because we have the dubious recognition of being labeled fake news by Facebook and affiliated fact checkers.

In a recent article published in Newsweek Espanol, in partnership with Newsguard, The Mind Unleashed is described as a “site that promises to ‘promote and inspire unconventional thinking,’ but is actually dedicated to publishing falsehoods.” The quote was in reference to a story TMU had written about the origins of COVID-19 and the potential for the virus to have been created as a bio weapon.

Newsguard is one of a number of “fact checker” services which has proliferated since the election of Donald Trump to U.S. President. Newsguard is a browser plug-in for Chrome and Microsoft Edge that gives trustworthiness ratings to most of the internet’s top-trafficked sites. It uses a color coded system to warn readers of an article or website’s trustworthiness. In a previous investigation, TLAV writer Whitney Webb exposed the neoconservative roots of the Newsguard team. Webb wrote:

“Newsguard’s advisory board makes it clear that Newsguard was created to serve the interests of American oligarchy. Chief among Newsguard’s advisors are Tom Ridge, the first Secretary of Homeland Security under George W. Bush and Ret. General Michael Hayden, a former CIA director, a former NSA director and principal at the Chertoff Group, a security consultancy seeking to “advise corporate clients and governments, including foreign governments” on security matters that was co-founded by former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who also currently serves as the board chairman of major weapons manufacturer BAE systems.”

Newsguard started as a partnership between Steven Brill and Louis Gordon Crovitz, with Crovitz appearing to be the connection to the world of finance, media, and geopolitics. Crovitz held a number of positions at Dow Jones and at the Wall Street Journal, is a board member of Business Insider, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and claims to have been an “editor or contributor to books published by the American Enterprise Institute and Heritage Foundation.” As Webb noted, “the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is one of the most influential neoconservative think tanks in the country and its ‘scholars,’ directors and fellows have included neoconservative figures like Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, John Bolton and Frederick Kagan.”

Most recently, Newsguard has created a list of “Websites Publishing False Coronavirus Information” and a list “Super Spreaders” of false information. These lists include many well-known and credible independent media outlets. This is not to say that every website listed is credible and should be supported. The point is that these types of lists only serve to “blackball” certain outlets and schools of thoughts which counter the mainstream version of events.

Newsguard is not the only fact checker service operating in the current “post-truth era”. Social media companies like Facebook have partnered with several organizations with the stated aim of fact checking and debunking disinformation. Of course, these organizations tend to reinforce the narratives being woven by the mouthpieces in the corporate media and the puppet masters working the politicians.  For a moment Facebook partnered with reviled “fact checker” Snopes, but, after Snopes was discredited, Facebook has now partnered with companies like Lead Stories.

Lead Stories also “fact checked” The Mind Unleashed a couple times, always using arbitrary standards and semantics to make a story appear to be false or misleading. In one story, Lead Stories relies on data from the aforementioned Newsguard. So who is Lead Stories? The About page states that since January 2019 they have been a part of Facebook fact checker program. They describe the partnership as follows:

“Under the terms of this partnership we get access to listings of content that has been flagged as potentially false by Facebook’s systems or its users and we can decide independently if we want to fact check it or not. In addition to this we can enter our fact checks into a tool provided by Facebook and Facebook then uses our data to help slow down the spread of false information on its platform. Facebook pays us to perform this service for them but they have no say or influence over what we fact check or what our conclusions are, nor do they want to.”

Lead Stories is run by Perry Sanders Jr., an attorney known for representing the family of rapper Notorious B.I.G. after his murder, and Editor-in-Chief Alan Duke, who helped create Lead Stories after 26 years with CNN. Despite Duke’s bio stating that he “did ground-breaking investigative reporting on the Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking scandal“, CNN is most known as a “super spreader” of propaganda and fake news. It is CNN, ABC, CBS, the Washington Post and others who actually helped cover up Epstein’s crimes. The entire Lead Stories team is filled with former and current CNN employees, as well as other MSM outlets.

Two other organizations that have partnered with Facebook and fact checked TMU are Science Feedback and Africa Check, both which claim to identify and expose the spread of disinformation. Science Feedback describes itself as “a worldwide network of scientists sorting fact from fiction in science based media coverage. Our goal is to help readers know which news to trust”. Africa Check says they are a non-profit attempting to “raise the quality of information available to society across the continent.”

As with Lead Stories and Newsguard, Africa Check uses semantics to label a story false or misleading. Science Feedback uses a similar strategy, casting The Mind Unleashed (and other alternative media sites) in a web of “disinformation” related to a report about the potential for a “mini ice age”.

Interestingly, Africa Check’s list of partners includes The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, yet another example of how the Gates’ spread their influence and agenda around the world – this time as part of an effort to control the dialogue around hot topics. Gates also funded the Event 201 pandemic simulation exercise which discussed the potential for censoring the internet or even arresting individuals who spread information that has been deemed false. Africa Check is also partnered with the George Soros-funded Open Society Foundations.

How to Limit Discussion and Control the Narrative

The strategy for the social media companies and fact checkers is simple: label someone fake news, lower their reach with algorithmic manipulation, force them to comply to arbitrary commands if they want the fake news label removed, control the narrative and shape the conversation.

Over the last two years I have seen good, hard working reporters and members of the independent/alternative media struggle to maintain integrity and report truthfully about controversial topics while also walking on egg shells in an attempt not to upset the fact checkers. For example, in late February, one writer had an article fact checked for discussing the various reports about COVID-19 being engineered in a lab. The Facebook fact checker stated:

“As explained in our fact-check, the claim that was reported in your article, namely that the coronavirus was created in a lab, is unsupported by evidence and is in fact contradicted by multiple scientific studies indicating that the virus originated naturally in wildlife.”

The writer of this particular order actually went to great lengths to make it clear that some sources disagreed with the claim, but according to Facebook’s fact checker, “it does not acknowledge that the claim is false to begin with, giving readers the misleading impression that there is legitimate scientific doubt over the issue when this is not the case.”

In other words, there is no reason to tell the public that some professionals and researchers have a different theory about the origins of the virus. No matter what was offered to the fact checker there was no compromise. Not only did they want the title to be changed and for an editor’s note to be attached acknowledging the apparently “false” claim, but they said they would not remove the fake news label if we took the article down. The options were essentially to keep the article up and comply, or keep it up, change nothing, and be labeled fake news.

In emails from Newsguard, TMU was admonished for “its history of promoting conspiracy theories related to the Sept. 11 attacks and the Douma, Syria chemical weapons attacks, as well as its promotion of marijuana as a cancer cure in stories”. It’s clear to see that anyone who does not buy the official narratives about the major geopolitical events of our day, or support the Big Pharma kool-aid – will be punished.

Unfortunately, the censors are winning because many in the alternative media are choosing to self-censor in the hopes that things will get better in the long run or that doing so will allow them to stay on the platform longer, and continue to reach more people. As we are now seeing, this is a losing strategy.

Two Years After the FB-Atlantic Council Partnership & the Independent Media Purge

What we are witnessing today, in May 2020, is the continuation of the fight against “fake news” which began immediately following the election of Donald Trump. In November 2016, Merrimack College associate professor Melissa Zimdars posted a public Google document titled, “False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical ‘News’ Sources” which went viral after being reported on by most corporate mainstream outlets.

Within a matter of weeks, a new list appeared online from an organization calling itself PropOrNot, an allegedly independent group of researchers trying to find the truth about the dissemination of Russian propaganda and fake news. This list also contained names of prominent independent media outlets like Anti Media, The Corbett Report, Mint Press News, and many others.

It was this combination of the Zimdars list and the PropOrNot list which had the immediate effect of placing a target on the vast majority of independent journalists and outlets who have also been accused of directly or indirectly conspiring with the Russians. Websites and social media pages for these outlets began to suffer a drastic reduction in reach and interaction with their audiences. Many websites have lost access to Google advertising money due to these false associations. The problem is that the majority of the mainstream media unquestionably reported on and repeated the claims made by these two lists without any attempt at investigative work.

In January 2018, PropOrNot would be exposed for their connections to The Atlantic Council, a think tank with connections to the western Military-Industrial Complex. Coincidentally, in May 2018, Facebook announced a partnership with the Atlantic Council, which officially claims to provide a forum for international political, business, and intellectual leaders. The social media giant said the partnership was aimed at preventing Facebook from “being abused during elections.”

The press release promoted Facebook’s efforts to fight fake news by using artificial intelligence, as well as working with outside experts and governments.

“Today, we’re excited to launch a new partnership with the Atlantic Council, which has a stellar reputation looking at innovative solutions to hard problems. Experts from their Digital Forensic Research Lab will work closely with our security, policy and product teams to get Facebook real-time insights and updates on emerging threats and disinformation campaigns from around the world. This will help increase the number of “eyes and ears” we have working to spot potential abuse on our service — enabling us to more effectively identify gaps in our systems, preempt obstacles, and ensure that Facebook plays a positive role during elections all around the world.”

The Atlantic Council of the United States was established in 1961 to bolster support for international relations. Although not officially connected to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Atlantic Council has spent decades promoting causes and issues which are beneficial to NATO member states. In addition, The Atlantic Council is a member of the Atlantic Treaty Organization, an umbrella organization which “acts as a network facilitator in the Euro-Atlantic and beyond.” The ATO works similarly to the Atlantic Council, bringing together political leaders, academics, military officials, journalists and diplomats to promote values that are favorable to the NATO member states.

Officially, ATO is independent of NATO, but the line between the two is razor thin.

Essentially, the Atlantic Council is a think tank which can offer companies or nation states access to military officials, politicians, journalists, diplomats, etc., to help them develop a plan to implement their strategy or vision. These strategies often involve getting NATO governments or industry insiders to make decisions they might not have made without a visit from the Atlantic Council team. This allows individuals or nations to push forth their ideas under the cover of hiring what appears to be a public relations agency but is actually selling access to high-profile individuals with power to affect public policy. Indeed, everyone from George H.W. Bush to Bill Clinton to the family of international agent of disorder Zbigniew Brzezinski have spoken at or attended council events.

In 2016, The New York Times wrote “The Atlantic Council, which has seen its annual revenue grow to $21 million from $2 million in the last decade, offers access to United States and foreign government officials in exchange for contributions. Individual donors, like FedEx, have also helped fund specific reports that align with their agendas.” The Times wrote that giving financial support is rewarded with “an ‘unprecedented level of information and access,’ including the chance to have a corporate executive, if the company donates at least $50,000 a year, speak at an Atlantic Council event ‘with top U.S. and foreign leaders’ present.”

According to their website, “The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) has operationalized the study of disinformation by exposing falsehoods and fake news, documenting human rights abuses, and building digital resilience worldwide.” The DFRLab tracks global disinfo campaigns, fake news stories, and “subversive attempts against democracy while teaching the public skills to identify and expose attempts to pollute the information space.”

The Atlantic Council’s list of financial supporters reads like a who’s-who of think tanks and Non-Governmental Organizations. The Atlantic Council receives funding from the Brookings Institution, Carnegie Endowment, Cato Institute, Council on Foreign Relations, and the Rand Corporation, to name a few. In addition, various members of the Military-Industrial Complex are benefactors of the Atlantic Council, including Huntington Ingalls, the United States’ sole maker of aircraft carriers; Airbus, the plane manufacturer; Lockheed Martin, the shipbuilder and aviation company; and Raytheon, which makes missile systems. All of the companies have contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense and offer financial support to the Atlantic Council. The Council also receives support from Chevron and the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Finally, the Atlantic Council receives direct financial support from the U.S. Departments of the Air Force, Army, Navy and Energy and from the U.S. Mission to NATO.

By October 2018 – only five months after the Atlantic Council partnership with Facebook – the social media giant announced they were unpublishing, or purging, over 500 pages and 200 accounts who are accused of spreading political spam. Several of these pages and writers were also removed from Twitter on the same day.

“Today, we’re removing 559 Pages and 251 accounts that have consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior,” Facebook stated in a blog post. Facebook states that the people behind this alleged spam “create networks of Pages using fake accounts or multiple accounts with the same names” and “post the same clickbait posts in dozens of Facebook Groups”.

Nearly 3 years later, we are still seeing the repercussions of the purge of independent media voices. In the wake of COVID-19 and calls for stemming the flow of “misinformation”, we will likely see more censorship and digital purging. Those who are attempting to stay informed and aware need to recognize that getting your news from Google, Facebook, YouTube, etc., will keep you trapped in a bubble of sanitized, state-approved information.

Step Outside the Matrix and Question Everything.

Question Everything, Come To Your Own Conclusions.

May 12, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Democrat advice for ‘combating online disinformation’ is common sense buried under hypocrisy and censorship

By Nebojsa Malic | RT | December 19, 2019

There is actually some good advice in the Democratic National Committee’s five suggestions for avoiding “disinformation” online. Too bad it’s buried in hypocrisy and promotion of literal disinformation shops, grifters and frauds.

On Tuesday, as Democrats launched their final impeachment push in the House of Representatives, the DNC posted a set of recommendations to its followers to protect themselves from “disinformation.” While the jokes about flogging the dead horse of ‘Russiagate’ write themselves at this point, some of the advice offered is actually quite solid.

For instance, it makes perfect sense to actively seek out information from multiple sources. The DNC spoils it, however, by insisting the sources have to be “authoritative.” As in what, approved by the Party? Well, no, merely by the self-appointed gatekeepers such as MediaBiasFactCheck and NewsGuard.

We’ve written about NewsGuard before. As for MBFC, it lists the Alliance for Securing Democracy – operators of the ridiculous Hamilton68 dashboard – and Bellingcat as “least biased” news sources. Enough said.

“Ask yourself who the author of online content is,” also amounts to good advice. That too is tempered by the realization that in its more commonplace, lazy form it amounts to identity politics: stuff “our” people create has to be correct, while anything done by “them” is suspect.

The third point is perhaps the strongest: “When you share, make sure you are sharing content that is true and helpful to others, not as a knee-jerk reaction to content that angers or scares you.”

One only wishes the Democrats would take their own advice, given how widespread the “woke rage clickbait” business model has become. A whole bunch of online outlets have catered to hate-clicks of Democrats perpetually aggrieved by Donald Trump’s presidency, until they went out of business and fired their staff.

The fourth piece of advice urges people to “try to inject truth into the debate” using fact-checkers like Snopes or PolitiFact. Leaving aside the proliferation of partisan fact-checkers and the whole industry of “arguments” based on redefining the meaning of words, this method is somewhat of a rare bird – mainly because of too many people following points two and three too literally, and generally launching personal attacks rather than debating the issues.

By far the worst offender, however, has to be the fifth point, urging DNC followers to “educate” themselves by reading a variety of articles, books and reports that actually peddle outrageous propaganda.

For example, one of the recommended resources is a report on disinformation by New Knowledge – a Democrat-funded shop that literally faked an army of Russian “bots” to sway a 2017 US Senate race in Alabama.

Another is a New York Times “documentary” on a Soviet conspiracy to “tear the West apart” that tells more about its authors than anything they claim.

Other recommendations include “smart civil society groups” that are literally disinformation shops run either by the Democrats themselves (Media Matters for America), or the Atlantic Council and NATO (Disinfo Portal). There is also Graphika, an outfit currently employing the Atlantic Council’s former chief troll-hunter Ben Nimmo, a disinformation story unto himself.

But wait, there’s more! Among the recommended authorities are Russiagate pushers Clint Watts and Malcolm Nance, CNN and MSNBC authorities on “disinformation” and “Russian bots” despite being repeatedly and colossally wrong on everything pretty much all the time.

Needless to say, DNC’s advice has attracted far more derision than appreciation on Twitter, with responses dominated by snark along the lines of “Tell us more about this and the Steele dossier,” or “disinformation [is] information that doesn’t lead to election of Democrats.”

Nor was all of the negative feedback from conservatives. “Coming from those who rigged the 2016 Democratic primary, no thanks. I don’t take advice from criminals,” quipped one diehard Bernie Sanders fan.

Tough luck, Democrats. Do better.

December 20, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why UK report on ‘digital gangster’ Facebook is a thinly veiled call for censorship

RT | February 18, 2019

A new UK 108-page report on “disinformation and fake news” online strongly reprimands Facebook for its ongoing misuse of personal data — but also casually promotes unprecedented levels of political censorship on social media.

The report, which is the culmination of an 18-month investigation by a UK parliamentary committee, lambastes Facebook over its failure to protect its users’ data and accuses it of deliberate breaches of privacy and anti-competition laws. It offers numerous examples of Facebook sins, including the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which saw the shady firm mine the personal data of 50 million users without permission.

The report also accuses CEO Mark Zuckerberg of showing “contempt” towards the UK parliament for refusing three requests to appear before the committee and admonishes Facebook for behaving like a “digital gangster.”

Grand intentions?

Despite its wide-ranging criticisms, however, it is immediately evident that the overarching goal of the report appears to be to force Facebook to engage in censorship to the benefit of Western governments. It focuses heavily on “malign forces” posting content which is intended to cause “disruption and confusion” online. Lest there be any confusion about the identity of those malign forces, the word “Russian” is used 51 times in the report.

While the authors claim to be interested in ensuring a “plurality of voices” online, they are extremely quick to resort to forms of censorship as a solution to the existence of content that does not adhere to certain approved narratives.

Censorship solution

There have been multiple examples in recent months of Facebook willingly and enthusiastically working in conjunction with US government-funded think tanks to target content critical of the US government, including its temporary removal of the English-language page belonging to Telesur, a Venezuela-based outlet which questions US policy in Latin America.

Facebook’s removal of that page happened weeks after it partnered with the US government-funded Atlantic Council to combat “inauthentic” content online.

The report admits that while it’s impossible to completely rid the internet of this politically inconvenient content, governments must focus on “the enforcement of greater transparency in the digital sphere” so that citizens “know the source” of information.

Facebook’s recent suspension of pages partly owned by RT video agency Ruptly (purportedly due to their failure to prominently disclose its funding) would surely please the UK committee. The problem is, these new transparency rules are being arbitrarily applied to pages publishing content critical of Western governments, while content funded by those governments so far is subject to no such oversight.

Further proving that the (thinly veiled) intent of the report is censorship of foreign (i.e., Russian) media, the report praises a French law which allows the French national broadcasting agency “to suspend television channels controlled by or under the influence of a foreign state” if they disseminate “false” information.

Discredited sources

The British report has some glaring flaws and inconsistencies, including its use of the New Knowledge cybersecurity firm as a credible source of information on Russian influence online, despite the fact that it was recently exposed by the New York Times for faking a Russian disinformation campaign in order to influence a local US election. Nonetheless, the report describes New Knowledge as an “information integrity company.”

It also praises NewsGuard, an app with deep ties to the US government, which applies trust ratings to news websites. As RT has documented before, however, NewsGuard applies its criteria selectively and exhibits clear bias against content critical of US policies. It is also lobbying to have its ratings installed by default on computers in schools and universities around the US — and even to have them installed by default on smartphones.

Ironically, the report criticizes people for giving credence to information which “reinforces their views” while dismissing content which they do not agree with as “fake news.”

Russian influence, or online democracy?

The report also takes a look at the “influence” Russian media may have had on the 2016 Brexit referendum, specifically outlets like RT and Sputnik. In an admission which is unintentionally quite funny, the report states that articles which had the “heaviest anti-EU bias” are the ones that went “most viral” online during the campaign.

Of course, by highlighting the fact that so many people were enthusiastically sharing content critical of the EU, the report inadvertently concedes that anti-EU sentiment was widespread, rather than some kind of evil plot by Russia to “sow discord” in the West.

The report also notes, however, that Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright MP admitted that he has seen no convincing evidence that Russian interference has had any “material impact” on how people choose to vote. Similarly, in the US, little evidence has been presented to suggest that so-called Russian online influence had any impact whatsoever on the outcome of the 2016 election.

Nonetheless, the report suggests that the UK government should launch new investigations into past elections, including the Brexit referendum and the Scottish independence referendum in 2014 to dig for elusive evidence of Russian interference.

Say goodbye to ‘harmful’ content

To ensure that social media companies comply with all its various demands, the report recommends that “a new category of tech company is formulated” which tightens their liabilities and would see those companies assume legal liability for content identified as “harmful.” It also advocates the establishment of a “compulsory Code of Ethics” setting out exactly what constitutes harmful content.

The British government should also “explore the feasibility” of adopting a UK version of the US Foreign Agents and Registration Act (FARA), it says. FARA requires persons acting “as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity” to disclose this information publicly. Ironically, a similar ‘foreign agents’ law in Russia was heavily criticized by Western media and politicians for targeting dissenting voices.

US government-funded outlets like Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFERL) both wrote reports critical of the law, with VOA even suggesting it had “echoes of Stalin-era denunciations” of dissidents. No such outrage emerged from those outlets when RT was forced to register as a “foreign agent” in the US last year.

Finally, the report suggests that companies like Facebook should also be required to finance digital literacy learning as “the fourth pillar of education” alongside reading, writing and math.

If this report is anything to go by, there is no doubt that learning to identify (and ignore) content critical of Western governments would be a major element of such “digital literacy” courses.

February 18, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | Leave a comment

Newsguard Turns to EU to Push Controversial Ratings System on Tech Companies, Smears MintPress as “Secretly Supported” by Russia

By Whitney Webb | Mint Press News | January 30, 2019

BRUSSELS —  The neoconservative-backed news rating upstart “Newsguard” is now lobbying the European Union to “force the hand” of major U.S.-based tech companies — including Facebook, Google, and Twitter — to integrate its controversial ratings system into the world’s most popular social media platforms and search engines, according to a recent statement made by Newsguard co-CEO Steven Brill during a Tuesday event on “countering online disinformation” hosted by the EU in Brussels.

Brill also announced during his Brussels speech that Newsguard will be fully operational in four EU countries — U.K., Italy, France and Germany — by this April and is hoping to partner with EU-connected and EU-funded fact-checking organizations in order to increase Newsguard’s profits and influence as well as the likelihood of its adoption by major tech companies. Many of those companies have apparently gotten cold feet after concerns were raised about Newsguard’s browser plug-in collecting location and browsing-history information on its users, a practice discovered by independent tech experts who examined the code behind the plug-in. This undisclosed collection of user information was publicly denied by Newsguard despite it clearly being in the code of the plug-in itself.

Newsguard — whose connections to prominent neoconservatives, former government and intelligence officials and powerful PR firms were the subject of a recent MintPress exposé that went viral — has apparently shifted its hopes overseas following domestic backlash within the United States, triggered by critical reporting on the group. Brill, during his brief speech at the EU event on Tuesday, claimed that news sites that have recently criticized Newsguard’s motives — MintPress among them — are “secretly supported” by the Russian government, a claim for which he provided no evidence.

Another consequence of the growing domestic backlash, as evidenced by Brill’s appearance and the content of his speech in Brussels on Tuesday, is that Newsguard is now seeking to partner with the EU bureaucracy in order to pressure social media and other tech companies to pay Newsguard a hefty licensing fee for use of its “nonpartisan” ranking system.

This would not only ensure a steady stream of income for Brill and Newsguard’s other CEO, Louis Gordon Crovitz, but would also ensure the success of Newsguard’s ultimate ambitions of becoming an involuntary part of the internet browsing experience for citizens of the United States, the Europe Union and beyond.

An unexpectedly uphill battle for the giants’ blessing

As MintPress reported earlier this month, Newsguard aims to soon be “running by default on our computers and phones whenever we scan the Web for news” and has been in talks with “online titans” for several months, having already teamed up with Microsoft. Newsguard’s Microsoft partnership is credited with the ranking system, now available only as a browser plug-in, being pushed onto public library systems and even universities throughout the United States.

Newsguard has since used a series of interviews with mainstream outlets (all of which have received high ratings from the company) to promote its “popularity” by citing a Gallup poll that found that “89% of users of social media sites and 83% overall want social media sites and search engines to integrate NewsGuard ratings and reviews into their news feeds and search results.” However, few of the outlets that reported on the poll and Newsguard disclosed that Newsguard itself and one of its top investors funded the poll, that participants were paid to answer questions, and that the poll’s findings “may not be reflective of attitudes of the broader U.S adult population.”

Despite that, for whatever reason, there remains some resistance from social media giants to adopting Newsguard. Such a response was unexpected by the company’s CEOs Brill and Crovitz, however, given that both — when they announced Newsguard’s formation and raising of $6 million in seed funding last March — stated in several interviews that they anticipated near-immediate offers from major tech companies.

For instance, an interview with Business Insider, Crovitz (who is also a board member of Business Insider) had stated that they expected at least one of “the big tech platforms to sign on as a paying customer in a couple of months,” while Brill was quoted in the same article as stating that “We would not have gone forward [with Newsguard]” without at least some interest from these very platforms. Several mainstream reports on Newsguard have noted that if it does not successfully partner with major social media platforms or search engine companies, it is likely to fail.

The tech companies lack of interest could be explained many ways. One possibility is that Newsguard has drawn criticism from big-name, high-traffic websites it has poorly rated, particularly among conservative outlets like the Daily Mail, Breitbart and the news aggregations site Drudge Report, which has resulted in a steady stream of negative reports about the operation since MintPress’ original exposé was first published on January 9.

Such negative reporting has led to a bombardment of negative comments on Newsguard’s Facebook posts and tweets, as well as low ratings for its browser plug-ins. Mozilla, Firefox’s parent company, was recently accused of deleting many of the 1-star ratings for the plug-in, presumably at Newsguard’s request.

In addition, Facebook’s ”third party fact-checking organization” since December 2016 — the Poynter Institute, itself controversial for being heavily funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Open Society Foundations — has openly criticized Newsguard.

In a recent article on Newsguard published in Slate, Alexios Mantzarlis, head of the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), stated that — while he “appreciates” what Newsguard is trying to do — he found Newsguard’s red-green rating system “reductive,” adding that “it feels like one of those recipes where the ingredients all look right, but then you follow it closely and the result isn’t great.” Mantzarlis brought up the red rating given to Al Jazeera and the green rating given to Fox News as a glaring example of Newsguard’s questionable rankings of news organizations.

Furthermore, internet privacy activists have raised concerns about Newsguard’s plug-in collecting and storing information on the browser history of its users, along with information on the device on which it is installed and geolocation information, among other data.

Though Newsguard has responded to such criticism by stating that it does not share or store the information it collects (the “Trust Us” response), privacy advocates have noted that collecting such information was a choice the company made, not a technical requirement for the stated purpose of the plug-in. It is worth noting that Newsguard’s Crovitz has repeatedly defended illegal NSA surveillance — and the man who oversaw that surveillance operation for several years, former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden, is on Newsguard’s board of advisors.

These factors and others have led some prominent privacy activists and technologists, such as Mozilla co-founder and former CEO Brendan Eich, to call Newsguard “a bad operation all around.” With prominent technologists like Eich and prominent fact-checkers like Mantzarlis lining up against Newsguard, the company’s plans to integrate smoothly into social media aren’t going as planned.

Leveraging the EU

Brill and Crovitz are apparently growing uneasy that large U.S. tech companies are getting cold feet on incorporating Newsguard into their online products and paying Newsguard’s hefty (yet undisclosed) licensing fee, given that licensing fees are the linchpin that would ensure the company’s profitability.

Slate’s recent article on Newsguard, published last Friday, admits as much. Will Oremus, Slate’s senior technology writer, stated that “whether NewsGuard’s shields become ubiquitous or a footnote in the history of online journalism will depend on the willingness of the large tech platforms to license its product.” Oremus then goes on to note that Brill said during an interview that he is confident that “a European Union agreement, little-known stateside, might help to force their hand. Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Mozilla (maker of the Firefox browser) have all signed on this year to the European Commission’s Code of Practice on Disinformation, which commits them to various measures to tackle false news on their platforms.”

Oremus continues:

If it sounds like an empty bureaucratic gesture, well, it might be. But Brill and Crovitz are counting on it to have teeth, and they’ve been making regular trips [emphasis added] to Brussels to try to persuade these platforms that adopting NewsGuard is their best path toward satisfying the agreement. If this or other arguments fail to convince Big Tech, NewsGuard will fail too.”

Indeed, Newsguard is undeniably looking to the EU to “force the hand” of uneasy tech companies in integrating — and licensing — Newsguard’s ranking system. On Tuesday, Brill made yet another of his “regular trips” to Brussels, this time to participate in an EU-hosted conference titled “Countering online disinformation – Towards a more transparent, credible and diverse digital media ecosystem.” Brill participated in a panel discussion with representatives from European fact-checking organizations, titled “How can the fact-checking community help ensure a fair public debate?”

During his brief speech at the conference (link – speech begins around 5:38:30), Brill used many of the same talking points he has used domestically, touting Newsguard’s ostensible nonpartisanship and “growing popularity” with consumers (yes, he cites only the same aforementioned Gallup poll as evidence).

However, a few minutes into his speech, Brill states the real reason for attending the conference:

I am here to announce that by mid to the end of April, we expect to have hired enough native journalists and enough experienced editors and get the process going so that we will have launched in Italy, Germany, France and the U.K. and will have covered at least 90 percent [of the most visited news websites in those countries].”

In other words, Newsguard Europe is soon to open its doors, showing that the company’s global ambitions are speeding up sooner than many observers had expected.

As Newsguard has done in the U.S., Brill also noted that “we [Newsguard] are now talking to library systems here in Europe” and that Newsguard hoped to partner with “the fact checkers on this stage.” The other fact-checking organizations on that panel included representatives from the Poynter Institute’s IFCN, which, as previously mentioned, has recently criticized Newsguard’s rating system; the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the world’s “largest community of public service [read government-funded] media organizations in the world,” whose members include the BBC, France24 and Deutsche Welle; and the EU government- and Google-funded “disinformation observatory” SOMA.

It is currently unclear whether Newsguard has partnered with any of these organizations or is involved in talks to do so. However, Brill’s stated desire to partner with fact-checkers supported by and also funded by the EU government shows that Newsguard Europe is interested in protecting establishment corporate and state-funded media outlets — much as it has in the United States, where Newsguard has targeted independent media sites, particularly those with an “anti-establishment” leaning.

Obviously not a first choice

Given Brill’s recent announcement and his recent statements regarding Newsguard’s shift across the Atlantic, the question then becomes — will it work? Will Brill and Crovitz be able to use the EU’s Code of Practice on Disinformation to pressure Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Mozilla — all of whom signed the code last fall — to follow in Microsoft’s footsteps and adopt Newsguard?

On Tuesday, the European Commission commented on the initial reports by Google, Facebook, Twitter and Mozilla on their efforts “to fight fake news.” In a statement, the commission wrote:

There has been some progress, notably in removing fake accounts and limiting the visibility of sites that promote disinformation. However, additional action is needed to ensure full transparency of political ads by the start of the campaign for the European elections in all EU Member States.”

Those elections will take place in May.

As noted by Forbes, the commission will perform a comprehensive assessment at the end of 2019 and “should the results prove unsatisfactory … [the commission] may propose further actions, including of a regulatory nature.” In other words, the commission is threatening tech companies with government regulation if the results of their efforts to fight “fake news” are considered “unsatisfactory” by EU bureaucrats.

If Newsguard is able to partner with groups that are EU-connected and funded like the EBU and SOMA, that conflict of interest alone could be enough to have Newsguard integration promoted by the EU as a “satisfactory” step towards meeting the requirements of the Code. In addition, Newsguard’s ties to one of the largest advertising firms in the world, the French-based Publicis Groupe, could also help it win EU support.

Indeed, Brill showed a subsection of the Code that fits neatly with Newsguard’s stated mission and its description of its own activities during his Tuesday speech. He highlighted the Code’s Commitment 11.D “Empowering Consumers,” which states:

Such transparency should reflect the importance of facilitating the assessment of content through indicators of the trustworthiness of content sources, media ownership and verified identity. These indicators should be based on objective criteria and endorsed by news media associations, in line with journalistic principles and processes.”

Yet, despite EU threats and Brill’s presentation to EU officials and tech company representatives on Tuesday, social media platforms like Facebook seem intent on resisting Newsguard. For example, Facebook, in an effort to pre-empt the commission’s response to its efforts and the “disinformation” conference Tuesday, announced at a Monday press conference in Brussels that it plans to create an “independent content oversight board with the power to overturn company decisions on user posts,” to be composed of 40 “technology and human rights experts free of commercial influences,” who will be selected by Facebook for inaugural three-year terms.

Though it is doubtful that the EU will find Facebook’s new “content oversight board” to be “satisfactory” over the course of the year, it shows that Facebook is willing to try all sorts of alternatives to Newsguard, despite Brill and Crovitz’s heavy lobbying of the popular yet beleaguered social media platform.

Newsguard critics are all Kremlin mouthpieces?

Newsguard’s ambitions seem to be hitting more roadblocks than expected in the U.S., leading the group to turn their attention to unelected EU bureaucrats and to cultivating alliances with establishment media organizations and fact-checkers in Europe in order to pressure U.S.-based tech companies to license its ranking system.

A clear factor in creating this scenario for Newsguard has been initial critical reporting from MintPress and other subsequent reports from various outlets such as RT and Breitbart. Brill, during his Tuesday speech, made his disdain for these reports clear and attempted to write off  all critical reporting on Newsguard as being “secretly supported” by the Russian government. During a short Q&A session following his speech on Tuesday, Brill briefly donned his tinfoil hat and lamented “this sustained attack we’ve been getting from RT and Sputnik for the last 10 days and all of the various websites that they kind of secretly support [emphasis added] in the United States.”

RT’s initial report on Newsguard cited MintPress as having broken the story, and Sputnik’s coverage focused on MintPress’ article as well as a radio interview the author of this article did with a Sputnik radio program a few days after the report had been published. As a consequence, Brill implied on Tuesday that MintPress is “secretly supported” by RT and Sputnik, a bold-face lie that had first been circulated in a January 15 report by Folio that had insinuated that MintPress was a “Kremlin-linked outlet.” Folio was eventually forced make the following clarification after being contacted by MintPress Editor-in-Chief Mnar Muhawesh:

A social media headline on this story, mentioning “Russian-linked news media,” was a reference to RT and Sputnik News. MintPress News is an independent, Minnesota-based news outlet.”

Newsguard and the establishment media it seeks to protect have now made it clear that not only are they unconcerned with the actual opinions of U.S. adults regarding their platform and ranking system, they are also willing to smear any news outlet that points out their numerous conflicts of interest and troubling ambitions as “Kremlin-linked.” The only “evidence” for that smear is absurdly based on the fact that RT and Sputnik have reported on the topic. The hypocrisy is glaring given that RT and Sputnik both regularly write articles based off of stories that were first published by establishment, “green-rated” U.S. outlets; yet, those outlets are not implied as receiving “secret support” from the Russian government by association.

The absurdity of these smears, along with Newsguard’s push to hammer out a deal with EU bureaucracy over the heads of tech companies and global internet users, show growing concern among Newsguard executives and their investors that their project could fail despite their best efforts. Indeed, if they have already resorted to deleting poor reviews for their browser plug-in, it certainly — as one FireFox user noted — “seems like a desperate move.”

Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.

January 30, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Fake News, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

NewsGuard: A Neoconservative Contrivance Which Promotes an Establishment View

By Philip Giraldi | American Herald Tribune | January 28, 2019

There’s a new thought policeman in town. He calls himself NewsGuard and he promises to restore “Trust and Accountability” to what one reads online. His website elaborates that “NewsGuard uses journalism to fight false news, misinformation, and disinformation. Our trained analysts, who are experienced journalists, research online news brands to help readers and viewers know which ones are trying to do legitimate journalism—and which are not… Our Green-Red ratings signal if a website is trying to get it right or instead has a hidden agenda or knowingly publishes falsehoods or propaganda.”

One might well stop reading immediately after running into “our trained analysts” with all that implies, but that would deny the greater pleasure derived from considering news-sites that have “… a hidden agenda or knowingly [publish] falsehoods or propaganda.” Excuse me, but hidden agendas, lies and propaganda are what the mainstream media is all about, note particularly the recent feeding frenzy over the Covington school incident at the Lincoln Memorial. Catholic racist white boys vs. elderly Native American war hero was how the story was framed all over the mainstream media before it became clear that the entire chosen narrative was upside down. Only a couple of news outlets bothered to apologize when the truth became known.

NewsGuard claims to have a staff of 50 that evaluates 2,000 websites in something like real time. How exactly it does that is not clear, but The New York Times repeats company claims that “the sites it rates account for 96% of online news and information engagement in the U.S.” NewsGuard also told The Times that it intends to quadruple its vetting of sites and seeks to make its coverage “ubiquitous.”

Make no mistake, NewsGuard is a neoconservative contrivance which promotes an establishment view of what is true and what is false. Its co-founder Gordon Crovitz is an ex-editor of The Wall Street Journal, who has enthused over the project, saying that it is “a milestone in the fight to bring consumers the information they need to counter false information, misinformation and disinformation online.” Crovitz has also been associated with the leading neocon foundation The American Enterprise Institute while the NewsGuard advisory board includes Tom Ridge, who was head of the Department of Homeland Security under George W. Bush, and Michael Hayden, who directed both the CIA and NSA. It is as government-establishment in orientation as it is possible to be.

In a sense seeking to establish “accuracy” in news reporting is nothing new as the social media, to include Facebook and Twitter, have had that objective for some time, but NewsGuard defines itself as having as its target the screening of the entire media in a politically impartial fashion, as “an information resource.” And the real danger is that it will soon be appearing on your computer or phone whether you want it there or not. It is already installed on local library computers in Hawaii and Ohio and is working with university and even high school libraries to include its software on all public computers. Worse still, NewsGuard is in partnership with Microsoft as part of the latter’s Defending Democracy Program. Microsoft currently has NewsGuard on its Edge browser and it intends to install the tool on its Microsoft 10 operating system as a built-in feature. Microsoft 10 is the standard operating system on nearly all computers sold in the United States.

When you go to a news site NewsGuard has a little shield that pops up in the corner of your screen that will tell you whether that site is a reliable source or not. A green tag displays for approved and red for not compliant. Similarly, if you do a search the responses that come up will feature a green or red shield as part of the results. The site for NBC news shows green, approved, with the heading “this website generally maintains basic standards of accuracy and accountability.” It then uses what it calls a “nutrition label” to break down the nine specific areas that were assessed, each of which also receives and individual green check for NBC. Under “Credibility” appears “Does not repeatedly publish false content; Gathers and presents information responsibly; Regularly corrects or clarifies errors; Handles the difference between news and opinion responsibly; and Avoids deceptive headlines.” Under “Accountability” appears “Website discloses ownership and financing; Clearly labels advertising; Reveals who’s in charge including any possible conflict of interest; and The site provides names of any content creators along with either contact or biographical information.”

The first thing one might observe about the system is that it is designed to favor large, well-funded establishment news sources that are staffed to go through the motions of fact checks and corrections. All of the major news networks are approved, including Fox, MSNBC and CNN, all of which editorialize heavily, almost constantly, in their news coverage. Voice of America, which is a U.S. government propaganda instrument by design, also is approved. NewsGuard also has approved all major newspapers to include The New York Times, which frequently gets the story wrong, and The Washington Post, where news stories are nearly indistinguishable from editorials through the use of evocative headlines and slanted narrative. All the U.S. media currently lead off, for example, with stories about Russia that include the assertion that the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 election, a claim that has yet to be confirmed through actual evidence.

Russian media operating in the U.S. including RT America and Sputnik get red ratings with a warning “Proceed with caution: this website fails to basic standards of accuracy and accountability.” RT is apparently guilty of “repeatedly publishing false content,” “not gather[ing] and publish[ing] information responsibly,” “not handl[ing] the difference between news and opinion responsibly” and “not provid[ing] the names of creators.” Al-Jazeera, another news service that often criticizes the United States and its governmental policies also is rated red, suggesting that the true criterion for rejection by NewsGuard is one’s relationship to the official establishment and globalist/interventionist line being promoted by the United States.

A glaring example of NewsGuard’s political bias relates to BuzzFeed, which is an approved site. The Washington Post reported recently how a BuzzFeed story about Michael Cohen and President Trump claimed that the president had directed his lawyer to lie to Congress regarding a proposed office tower project in Moscow, which would have been both a crime and impeachable. A day later Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office intervened and described the story as untrue. The New York Times ran the first story on page one but the retraction that followed appeared on page 11.

And it was not the first major bit of fake news for BuzzFeed. The same two journalists had previously reported that Russia had financed the 2016 election.

CNN, another NewsGuard green authority, inevitably bemoaned possible consequences arising from the Cohen-Trump story by complaining that it would be used to justify “bad stereotypes about the news media,” had its own Russiagate misstep when it falsely claimed that Donald Trump Jr had had access to WikiLeaks’ DNC emails before their 2016 publication.

The BBC, yet another reliable source approved by NewsGuard, reported back in September that the U.S. government had evidence that the Syrian “regime” was continuing to develop chemical weapons. It added an assessment from the completely befuddled U.S. envoy for Syria James Jeffrey that “President Assad had ‘no future as a ruler’ in Syria… Right now [the Syrian government] is a cadaver sitting in rubble with just half the territory of Syria under regime control on a good day.”

The fact is that Jeffrey was completely wrong about developments in Syria, where the government had been extremely successful in re-asserting control over nearly all of the country, while the claims of chemical weapons use have been rebutted many times, including by actual witnesses and journalists on the ground during the alleged attack at Douma in April.

Reuters news agency, yet another NewsGuard green light, is also into the game. In November 2013 it published an article, part of a series, entitled “Khamenei controls massive financial empire based on property seizures,” which claimed that an Iranian government charitable foundation called Setad (also known as EIKO) actually exists to take control of property for the use of the government’s religious leadership.

A subsequent news report that appeared in January in the alternative media revealed that the investigative journalists who wrote the story did so from Dubai, London and New York and never visited the properties they identified, in most cases completely misrepresenting what could be seen on the ground.

Robert Fontina at Counterpunch has also rejected the depiction of Setad as anything but a charitable foundation. The truth is that Setad engages in major social projects, including rural poverty alleviation, empowering women, home and school building, and provision of healthcare. Fontina observes that American sanctions against it and similar entities hit ordinary Iranians’ lives by producing food insecurity while also restricting the supplies of needed medications. Ahmad Noroozi of the Barakat Foundation claims that numerous Iranians have already been affected by U.S.-initiated sanctions directed against his country, restricting access to cancer treatments and other pharmaceuticals.

So who gets the endorsement from NewsGuard? Those who toe the line on U.S. policy and the establishment globalist/interventionist agenda. It would be interesting to know what NewsGuard’s staff of analysts is really looking for when it researches a site or media outlet. As the examples cited above demonstrate, NewsGuard has nothing to do with taking pains to report the news accurately, nor is there any evidence of real accountability. It is all about who pays the bills and who is in charge. They give the orders and one either falls in line or goes out the door. That is the reality of today’s mainstream media.

Philip M. Giraldi is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer who served nineteen years overseas in Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Spain.

January 28, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , , , | 1 Comment

No need to install: Microsoft has controversial fake news filter NewsGuard built into mobile browser

© http://www.microsoft.com
By Igor Ogorodnev | RT | January 23, 2019

Corporate and neocon-backed startup NewsGuard is one step closer to its vision of bringing its “unreliable” news rater to every screen after Microsoft makes it an integral part of its Edge mobile browser.

Rather than having to download an app as before, Edge users on Android and Apple devices can now just click one button to enable its “green-red rating signal if a website is trying to get it right or instead has a hidden agenda or knowingly publishes falsehoods or propaganda.”

Among the green-rated websites: Voice of America, CNN, Buzzfeed, the Guardian, New York Times and the Washington Post, as well as left-leaning upstarts such as Vice News and Refinery 29. Ones that are given the red warning label of “failing to maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability”: RT and Sputnik (obviously enough) and the right-wing Daily Mail, Breitbart and the Drudge Report, in addition to hundreds of other non-mainstream news websites such as Wikileaks.

Not only does the integration ensure that NewsGuard is present on every browser, and is easier to use than to ignore, but by making it a fundamental Microsoft-provided feature, the company gives it inherent level of trustworthiness, something akin to a bundled anti-virus feature, only this time the virus targets your brain, not your computer or iPod.

‘Totally transparent’

None of this is the slightest bit alarming if you believe that NewsGuard is an absolutely fair arbiter of what constitutes real news or propaganda.

Its pride of place is its “Nutrition Labels” which ape the precision of a list of calories, carbs, and saturated fats to give a supposedly scientific assessment of media reliability on nine different criteria. Among them: doesn’t repeatedly publish false content, avoids deceptive headlines, gathers and presents information responsibly, handles the difference between news and opinion responsibly.

©  Newsguardtech.com/Media sample

The green-listed media outlets above apparently do not ever engage in these practices, or at least not knowingly. So CNN never misleads with its headlines, the Guardian never dresses up its agendas as news, and Buzzfeed stories are always accurate. One literally doesn’t have to go back three days to find dozens of examples to the contrary, but this would be too mind-numbingly pedantic a task.

Even regular readers of the green-tick media must be able to see these are judgment calls. What is even “presenting information responsibly”?

Perhaps realizing that their pseudo-scientific fancy diagram is insufficient, NewsGuard has stressed that they are not using shadowy methods like tech companies and are open to two-way communication.

“We want people to game our system. We are totally transparent. We are not an algorithm,” company co-founder Steve Brill told the Guardian.

This is how he explained the Daily Mail red warning.

“We spell out fairly clearly in the label exactly how many times we have attempted to contact them. The analyst that wrote this writeup got someone on the phone who, as soon he heard who she was and where she was calling from, hung up. As of now, we would love to hear if they have a complaint or if they change anything.”

On the other hand, RT did answer NewsGuard’s queries in detail. You can guess how much difference that made.

From anthrax scares to Russia fears

But who are these people that the Daily Mail or RT have to impress and why?

Brill himself is a veteran centrist journalist and author, his co-CEO Gordon Crovitz is a former Wall Street Journal columnist. After Brill, its second-biggest investor, along with his father, is Nick Penniman, the liberal publisher, and the third-biggest is Publicis Group, a multinational advertising agency.

Meanwhile, its advisory board includes Tom Ridge, the first-ever Homeland Security chief, and developer of another famous color-coded system, the terror alert, and Michael Hayden, the CIA director, also under George W. Bush. There are also several Obama and Clinton-era figures.

Tom Ridge and George W. Bush in 2004. ©  Reuters

The overall picture emerges of a mix of establishment journalists, hawkish old-school Washington insiders, and so-called ethical businessmen.

They may all be experts in their fields, but if you believe that these are selfless neutral adjudicators you are probably beyond being helped by color charts. And this is not some one-off initiative either: NewsGuard is part of Microsoft’s Defending Democracy program, which combats purported election meddling, presumably primarily from Russia. The frontline of the information war is not customarily the place for impartial news judgment.

But I wasn’t an Edge user…

However much respectability NewsGuard enjoys through Microsoft, Edge has a laughably small – a fraction of a percent – market share on mobiles. In practical terms, even an increase of popularity of several thousand percent will only mean several thousand new users, and other browsers are available.

This would be that, if not for NewsGuard’s self-proclaimed ambition “to expand to serve the billions of people globally who get news online.” This is just a beginning: there is an overarching plan where all public computers, from the school to the university to the library, are automatically equipped with the same “safe browsing” system.

And rather than as an individual warning, NewsGuard plans to make its designations work as an effective financial tool. The company, which has received $6 million in backing, also plans to soon work with advertisers, “keeping ads off unreliable news websites” to ensure “brand safety.” Fall foul of the green ticks, no money for you. Advertising managers are already demonetizing programs with alternative or controversial viewpoints elsewhere, and soon the process can be automated, and Brill is boasting that he is “happy to be blamed” – doing the dirty work for the platforms. No wonder alternative outlets in the US are openly opposed.

So, just like the use of NewsGuard in all public libraries in the faraway state of Hawaii (no money charged), it is best to look at the Edge integration is more of a test, a pilot project, a dry run. Latching NewsGuard onto a popular browser like Chrome, or a social network like Facebook, would stir tremors of public debate, as it has done in the past when similar initiatives have been tried. Instead, first they came for the Edge users.

January 24, 2019 Posted by | Fake News, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment

Narrative Control Firm Targeting Alternative Media

By Caitlin Johnstone | Consortium News | January 18, 2019

The frenzied, hysterical Russia narrative being promoted day in and day out by Western mass media has had two of its major stories ripped to shreds in the last three days.

report seeded throughout the mainstream media by anonymous intelligence officials back in September claimed that U.S. government workers in Cuba had suffered concussion-like brain damage after hearing strange noises in homes and hotels with the most likely culprit being “sophisticated microwaves or another type of electromagnetic weapon” from Russia. A recording of one such highly sophisticated attack was analyzed by scientists and turned out to be the mating call of the male indies short-tailed cricket. Neurologists and other brain specialists have challenged the claim that any U.S. government workers suffered any neurological damage of any kind, saying test results on the alleged victims were misinterpreted. The actual story, when stripped of hyperventilating Russia panic, is that some government workers heard some crickets in Cuba.

Another report which dominated news for a day recently claimed that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort (the same Paul Manafort who the Guardian falsely claimed met with Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy) had shared polling data with a Russian associate and asked him to pass it along to Oleg Deripaska, who is often labeled a “Russian oligarch” by western media. The polling data was mostly public already, and the rest was just more polling information shared in the spring of 2016, but Deripaska’s involvement had Russiagaters burning the midnight oil with breathless excitement. Talking Points Memo‘s Josh Marshall went so far as to publish an article titled “The ‘Collusion’ Debate Ended Last Night,” substantiating his click-generating headline with the claim that “What’s crystal clear is that the transfer to Kilimnik came with explicit instructions to give the information to Deripaska. And that’s enough.”

Except Manafort didn’t give any explicit instructions to share the polling data with Deripaska, but with two Ukrainian oligarchs (who are denying it). The New York Times was forced to print this embarrassing correction to the story it broke, adding in the process that Manafort’s motivation was likely not collusion, but money.

These are just the latest debacles as reporters eager to demonstrate their fealty to the U.S.-centralized empire fall all over themselves to report any story that makes Russia look bad without practicing due diligence. The only voices who have been questioning the establishment Russia narrative that is being fed to mass media outlets by secretive government agencies have been those which the mass media refuses to platform. Alternative media outlets are the only major platforms for dissent from the authorized narratives of the plutocrat-owned political/media class.

Imagine, then, how disastrous it would be if these last strongholds of skepticism and holding power to account were removed from the media landscape. Well, that’s exactly what a shady organization called NewsGuard is trying to do, with some success already.

report by journalist Whitney Webb for MintPress News details how NewsGuard is working to hide and demonetize alternative media outlets like MintPress, marketing itself directly to tech companies, social media platforms, libraries and schools. NewsGuard is led by some of the most virulently pro-imperialist individuals in America, and its agenda to shore up narrative control for the ruling power establishment is clear.

The product that NewsGuard markets to the general public is a browser plugin which advises online media consumers whether a news media outlet is trustworthy or untrustworthy based on a formula with a very pro-establishment bias which sees outlets like Fox News and the U.S. propaganda outlet Voice of America getting trustworthy ratings while outlets like RT get very low ratings for trustworthiness. This plugin dominates the bulk of what comes up when you start researching NewsGuard, but circulating a plugin that individual internet users can voluntarily download to help their rulers control their minds is not one of the more nefarious agendas being pursued by this company. The full MintPress article gives a thorough breakdown of NewsGuard’s activities, but here’s a summary of five of its more disturbing revelations:

No. 1 The company has created a service called BrandGuard, billed as a “brand safety tool aimed at helping advertisers keep their brands off of unreliable news and information sites while giving them the assurance they need to support thousands of Green-rated [i.e., Newsguard-approved] news and information sites, big and small.” Popularizing the use of this service will attack the advertising revenue of unapproved alternative media outlets which run ads. NewsGuard is aggressively marketing this service to “ad tech firms, leading agencies, and major advertisers”.

No. 2 NewsGuard’s advisory board reads like the fellowships list of a neocon think tank, and indeed one of its CEOs, Louis Gordon Crovitz, is a Council on Foreign Relations member who has worked with the American Enterprise Institute and Heritage Foundation. Members of the advisory board include George W Bush’s Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, deep intelligence community insider Michael Hayden, and the Obama administration’s Richard Stengel, who once publicly supported propaganda in the U.S. (see the Tweet below for a direct quote.)  All of these men have appeared in influential think tanks geared toward putting a public smiley face on sociopathic warmongering agendas.

 

No. 3 Despite one of its criteria for trustworthy sources being whether or not they are transparent about their funding, the specifics of NewsGuard’s financing is kept secret.

No. 4 NewsGuard is also planning to get its news-ranking system integrated into social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, pursuing a partnership which will make pro-establishment media consumption a part of your experience at those sites regardless of whether or not you download a NewsGuard app or plugin.

No. 5 NewsGuard markets itself to state governments in order to get its plugin installed in all of that state’s public schools and libraries to keep internet users from consuming unauthorized narratives. It has already succeeded in accomplishing this in the state of Hawaii, with all of its library branches now running the NewsGuard plugin.

We may be certain that NewsGuard will continue giving a positive, trustworthy ranking to the New York Times no matter how many spectacular flubs it makes in its coverage of the establishment Russia narrative, because the agenda to popularize anti-Russia narratives lines up perfectly with the neoconservative, government agency-serving agendas of the powers behind NewsGuard. Any attempt to advance the hegemony of the U.S.-centralized power establishment will be rewarded by its lackeys, and any skepticism of it will be punished.

We need to use every inch of our ability to communicate with each other to make these manipulations clearly understood.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium.

January 18, 2019 Posted by | Fake News, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | | 1 Comment