Corporate and political elites use “fact-checker” organizations such as NewsGuard to undermine dissident news media outlets, explained Breitbart News Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow and PragerU CEO Marissa Streit in a conversation about digital censorship streamed on Tuesday.
NewsGuard’s denigration of PragerU as a purveyor of false information led to PragerU being dropped by JW Player, a video-hosting company. PragerU explained one aspect of how NewsGuard’s “rating system” caused financial harm to its operations. It shared, “JW Player, a platform that hosted PragerU videos, terminated its contract due to NewsGuard’s rating of PragerU as ‘not credible.'”
PragerU posted an email exchange between Streit and Steven Brill, co-CEO of NewsGuard, and Eric Effron, editorial director of NewsGuard. Throughout the correspondence, Brill and Effron accused PragerU of advancing “one-sided,” “false,” “misleading,” and “unsubstantiated” claims.
Streit remarked, “PragerU is not even a news organization. We share information. We share truth, but apparently NewsGuard is now the new guardian of the Internet. They are a self-appointed group, mostly composed of political elites and people with deep pockets and deep connections. They decided to self-appoint themselves as this organization that gets to say who speaks the truth and who speaks lies.”
Streit explained NewsGuard’s modus operandi:
They take these little reports that they make about different websites, predominantly focusing on people who they don’t agree with, and then they go to the Big Tech companies and say, “Hey guys, you don’t want to service these horrible liars that are propagating terrible information. You would never want to do that. Allow us to investigate whether these websites are clean or dirty, and once we provide you with a report, the ones that are bad, the ones that are in the red, you should kick off immediately, otherwise you guys are just as bad as they are.”
Maybe some of these Big Tech companies are actually hiding behind NewsGuard to use them as a third party fact-checker to remove ideas that they don’t like, or simply, they’re pressured by NewsGuard to kick people off, because [it] is information that the political elite clearly doesn’t want out there. Somehow this group of self-appointed folks has been the backbone of censorship.
Marlow noted how “fact-checking” is part of a broader apparatus of political censorship. “Fact-checker” organizations, he added, do not operate in good faith.
“It really is part of a cancellation industry,” he remarked. “It is now a business to be involved with canceling people. … They don’t want us to improve. They don’t want us to be more fair. They don’t want to be more accurate. They don’t want us to be more responsive to media inquiries. They’re trying to send a signal to the planet that we’re unsafe, that we are dangerous, and that … it’s not safe for your brand [to advertise on PragerU or Breitbart News], which means we’re deprived of resources.”
He added, “It’s all the establishment protecting themselves in conjunction with Google, Facebook, and Microsoft.” He said “fact-checking” is used to silence “people who might actually investigate or report on what [the establishment is] doing [or] giving factual information about who’s really pulling the levers of power in our country.” Dissident news media outlets are pressured into self-censorship to withhold “truthful things,” he added.
“[Fact-checking] is a business to protect the elite, and [fact-checkers] are doing the bidding of the elite,” Marlow remarked. “The elite will keep funding them so long as they keep choosing the right winners and losers,. It’s a total mafioso mentality. It should be investigated with the RICO statutes.”
Dissident news media are financially harmed when “fact-checking” organizations malign them as disreputable to induce companies to withdraw online advertising. “They are systematically targeting independent conservative outlets, and they do the backing of the establishment,” Marlow stated. “It’s all designed specifically to make sure [outlets like Breitbart News and PragerU] don’t get money. It’s a hoax to take money from you and me. [This] is dead serious.”
“It’s these elite classes that are ruining [and] running … the country,” Marlow held. He assessed that political interests are broadly subordinated to “corporate business interests” within the “fact-checking” industry. The fact-checking industry is used by entrenched corporate and political interests to financially and reputationally damage those organizations deemed as threats to their status, he added.
Marlow explained, “If you are [a] threat to their corporate business interests [or] to their power structure — which they’ve worked on for a very long time — they’re going to use whatever means necessary to try to silence you, even if they’re silencing true information. They don’t care about truth. They don’t care about facts. They don’t care about accuracy.”
NewsGuard’s board members include alumni of the Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama administrations, Marlow noted. Board members also include “people who worked for establishment outlets, Time magazine, NBC News, PBS,” he added.
Censorship from corporate and political elites is built upon a combination of hubris and distrust of the public, Streit determined.
She said, “There’s so much hubris over there, and it’s political elite [who] believe that people are just plain stupid and dumb, [and that] they shouldn’t have access to information because they can’t make their own decisions. Therefore, they need to protect the public from information that they should not know. … They decided that they get to be the arbiters of truth.”
Marlow concluded, “We are living in an oligopoly, in an oligarchy. It’s already here.”
NewsGuard markets itself as ethical, politically objective, and non-partisan in its conduct. “We care deeply about reliable journalism’s pivotal role in democracy,” the organization claims, “our experienced journalists come from diverse backgrounds and have no political axes to grind.”