Consortium News, a news website focused on foreign policy founded by an award-winning journalist who helped break the Iran-Contra story in the 1980s, is suing NewsGuard and the U.S. government over alleged collaboration to suppress its reporting, which is critical of U.S. foreign policy.
The complaint, filed in federal court, focuses on NewsGuard’s relationship with the Pentagon’s Cyber Command. In 2021, the Pentagon contracted NewsGuard to develop a system called “misinformation fingerprints” to catalogue “known hoaxes, falsehoods and misinformation narratives that are spreading online.”
The complaint alleges that the U.S. government worked with NewsGuard to target and suppress Consortium’s reporting, which frequently takes a critical stance on U.S. foreign policy towards Russia, Ukraine, and the Middle East.
Consortium alleges that through its contract with the Pentagon, NewsGuard was “acting jointly or in concert with the United States to coerce news organizations to alter viewpoints,” engaging in the “censorship and repression of views.”
“The First Amendment rights of all American media are threatened by this arrangement with the Defense Department to defame and abridge the speech of U.S. media groups,” said Bruce Afran, the attorney representing Consortium News.
“NewsGuard uses its software to tag targeted news sites, including all 20,000+ Consortium News articles an videos published since 1995, with warnings to “proceed with caution,” telling NewsGuard subscribers that Consortium News produces “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,” said Consortium in a press release.
Consortium News was founded in 1995 by Robert Parry, one of the journalists who broke the Iran-Contra story in the 1980s. Parry broke other high-profile stories focused on the American foreign policy establishment, including stories on the CIA’s involvement in Latin American drug trafficking and “psychological operations” abroad.
Parry won the George Polk award for journalism in 1984, and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1985 for his Iran-Contra reporting. In 2015, Harvard University’s journalism school awarded Parry the I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence.
This journalistic pedigree is apparently not enough for NewsGuard, which attaches warning labels to all Consortium News links, advising users to “proceed with caution” due to its failure to “gather and present information responsibly” and not “repeatedly publish false of egregiously misleading content.”
One of the issues NewsGuard has with Consortium is that the latter did not go along with the establishment’s wildly exaggerated claims of Russian interference in American politics. As Breitbart News previously reported, NewsGuard took virtually no action against news organizations that spread the Russiagate hoax, while downgrading the news companies that criticized the false narrative.
Via NewsGuard’s page on Consortium News.
For example, a June 2023 article headlined “Ukraine Timeline Tells the Story” said, “The hoax known as Russiagate grips the Democratic Party and its allied media in the United States, in which it is falsely alleged that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to get Donald Trump elected.”
In fact, Russia did interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election in numerous ways, in a manner that benefited then-Republican candidate Donald Trump. Moscow was behind a data breach faced by the Democratic National Committee that led to emails and other documents being leaked, ran influence campaigns on social media platforms, and gained access to parts of U.S. local electoral systems, according to multiple investigations by the U.S. government.
As Breitbart News has previously reported, NewsGuard’s own co-founder, Steven Brill, misled the public regarding Russia, going on national TV weeks before the 2020 election to promote the false rumor that the Hunter Biden laptop story was likely a “hoax perpetrated by the Russians.”
The same false claim was promoted by NewsGuard advisory board member Michael Hayden, a former director of the NSA and CIA who has been accused of misleading the American public for decades on topics ranging from torture programs to domestic surveillance operations. Bloomberg in 2014 wrote that Hayden was by some assessments “the nation’s biggest liar.”
“He has lied so brazenly and so often, anything he says must be treated with instant suspicion,” wrote one reporter of Hayden, who now advises an organization that claims to be an authority on misinformation and media lies.
The case is Consortium For Independent Journalism vs. The United States of America and NewsGuard Technologies, Docket No: 23-cv-07088 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election.