The Pentagon invests in private internet monitoring companies NewsGuard and PeakMetrics
The Pentagon invests in private internet monitoring companies NewsGuard and PeakMetrics

USA: According to conservative news outlet The Federalist, the US Department of Defense funds private internet monitoring firms NewsGuard and PeakMetrics, which trawl the web for "misinformation" in order to censor and demonetize websites.

NewsGuard is a for-profit organisation that ranks news outlets based on their "reliability" and reputation for disseminating "falsehoods and misinformation narratives." Last week, before a Congressional hearing, journalist Matt Taibbi labelled the company a part of the "censorship-industrial complex," publishing an image of a $750,000 grant awarded to the firm by the Pentagon.

During the hearing, reporter Michael Shellenberger explained that NewsGuard uses its ratings system to drive advertiser revenue away from conservative sites or other "disfavored publications."

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Gordon Crovitz, CEO of Newsguard, denied receiving funding from the government in an email to Taibbi, claiming instead that the government pays for access to its data. He claimed that the Pentagon is particularly looking for proof of "Russian and Chinese disinformation."

However, The Federalist reported on Friday that NewsGuard won the military's "Countering Covid-19 Disinformation" challenge and received a $25,000 prize from the Pentagon in 2020. A year later, Newsguard received $750,000 to work with the Department of Defense to create a database of "misinformation networks" powered by AI.

One of many such companies supported by the Pentagon is NewsGuard. Another Covid-19 challenge winner, PeakMetrics received a $25,000 grant to create "social listening" technology for the military.

It received an additional $1.5 million in funding from the federal government in 2021, but even before that, the Pentagon had singled out the business as having potential value.

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PeakMetrics participated in the "Air Force Accelerator" programme at the beginning of 2020 and created "measuring tools to detect misinformation campaigns" as a result. The Federalist claims that it used these tools in the US elections of 2020 and 2022. PeakMetrics initially provided services only to the US State Department and Pentagon before later expanding to the private sector.

What the Pentagon hoped to accomplish with these election monitoring campaigns is unknown. The Federalist contacted PeakMetrics for comment, but they didn't reply.

Along with a number of other government departments and agencies, the Pentagon has recently directly engaged in social media censorship in addition to paying private companies to create web surveillance tools.

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Internal Twitter communications obtained by Taibbi, Shellenberger, and other reporters revealed the social media behemoth "directly assisted" the US military's online influence campaigns and censored "anti-Ukraine narratives" on behalf of numerous intelligence agencies. The US State Department and related NGOs also sent the platform lengthy lists of accounts to block.

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