Censorship Profile: NewsGuard


NewsGuard is a private company offering various products that purport to combat “misinformation.” Their leading product is a browser extension that attaches a “reliability” score to virtually every news website on the internet, with scores ranging from 1-100. A 2021 study by the Media Research Center found a 27-point difference in NewsGuard scores between liberal and conservative news sites. Mainstream conservative websites that receive a low NewsGuard rating include Breitbart News, The Federalist, and TuckerCarlson.com

The company is on record calling for ad revenue to be stripped from disfavored websites. Its “BrandGuard” product provides advertisers with inclusion and exclusion lists, blacklisting sites on the latter from receiving ad revenue.

With support from Microsoft, NewsGuard also markets “media literacy” services to schools and public libraries guiding users on which news sources they ought to avoid. NewsGuard claims that more than 800 public libraries around the world use its browser extension, which displays warning labels next to websites with a low “reliability” score.

Key individuals: Gordon Crovitz, Steven Brill (co-founders), former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden, former NATO secretary general and Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales (advisors).

Key moments:

  • 2017: NewsGuard raises $6 million in seed funding, with “big four” advertising agency Publicis Groupe leading the round.
  • 2018: NewsGuard launches its first product with support from tech giant Microsoft. Co-founders Steven Brill and Gordon Crovitz publicly announce their goal of financially throttling disfavored news websites by selling blacklists to advertisers.
  • 2020: Shortly before the 2020 presidential election, Brill appears on national TV claiming the New York Post’s story on the Hunter Biden laptop is most likely a “Russian Hoax.”
  • 2020: Former NSA and CIA director and NewsGuard advisory board member Michael Hayden signs an open letter denouncing the Hunter Biden story as Russian disinformation.
  • 2021: NewsGuard’s “misinformation fingerprints” project receivs $750,000 in U.S. taxpayer dollars via the Department of Defense.
  • 2022: The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the nation’s largest teachers’ union, partners with NewsGuard, promising to roll out its news rating product to “tens of millions of U.S. students and families.”
  • 2023: Rep. Rich McCormick (R-GA) adds an amendment to the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) banning the military from working with NewsGuard and any other organizations involved with media blacklisting.