NewsGuard, a private for-profit company that purports to assign “news nutrition labels” to thousands of news sites by unilaterally deeming them to be credible or not using ratings scores, has emerged as perhaps the top sentinel of the censorship industry. Low NewsGuard credibility rating scores are intended to financially deprive targeted websites of up to $2.6 billion a year in advertising revenue such sites depend on to survive.
Since its first censorship product launch in 2018, NewsGuard has attempted to rebut charges of very obvious political bias (it rates, for example, left-wing outlets 27 points higher than right-wing outlets on a 0-100 score) by drawing a distinction between the personal views of the censors themselves and the topics the censors personally censor. NewsGuard’s own FAQ uses the word “apolitical” five times to describe purportedly objective “criteria” they use to create advertiser blacklist ratings.
But a review of the personal writings of NewsGuard co-founder and co-CEO Gordon Crovitz reveals a direct match between the idiosyncratic political views of NewsGuard’s top executive and the specific topics that NewsGuard censors news sites by giving them low credibility scores for advocating. Notably, Crovitz spent 30 years calling for “Open Borders” (totally unfettered mass immigration) and now uses NewsGuard’s rating system to crush the credibility score (and thus the ad revenue) of any website that opposes open borders.
While working at the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) in July 2014, Crovitz authored a piece, In Praise of Huddled Masses, complaining that the immigration policies of Democrat president Barack Obama were too restrictive. He starred in a 1-on-1 WSJ interview that same month, bluntly titled The Case for Open Borders:
In his July 2014 WSJ piece, Crovitz told readers that he had been pushing a formal amendment to the U.S. Constitution to enshrine open borders for more than 30 years, when that position was so fringe it had to be published anonymously:
Thirty years ago, on July 3, 1984, The Wall Street Journal published an editorial titled “In Praise of Huddled Masses.” It said: “If Washington still wants to ‘do something’ about immigration, we propose a five-word constitutional amendment: There shall be open borders.”
Though the 1984 piece was published anonymously, Crovitz cheekily admitted, 30 years later, his involvement in pushing WSJ’s open borders editorial line — stopping just short of admitting he wrote it himself:
The editorial was provocative, including to nativist conservatives; a writer for National Review called it the “high-water mark of loony libertarianism.” There is a tradition of anonymity among editorial writers, but let’s just say I had something to do with that editorial, which was approved by the late Robert Bartley, the Journal’s longtime editor.
Today, the “nativist conservatives” who oppose Crovitz’s open-borders views are systematically targeted for censorship by NewsGuard, Crovitz’s company, which makes its money selling huge databases of thousands of news websites for advertisers and tech companies to blacklist, and effectively bankrupt.
In addition, the largest and most popular online news sites that receive the lowest ratings from NewsGuard are virtually all leading conservative websites that oppose open borders immigration policies, such as The Federalist, NewsMax, One America News Network, and Revolver News.
This is true for both American websites and European ones, where websites aligned with the anti-immigration populist right-wing movement represented by parties like Alternative for Germany, National Rally, and Lega also receive low scores. In some cases, NewsGuard specifically tanks their rating score because of their editorial position about immigration:
NewsGuard’s low credibility ratings to anti-mass migration news sites (which ratings, again, are sold in blacklist databases so advertisers to cut off the news sites’ revenue) are not some coincidental accident. In January 2020, NewsGuard characterized a key political argument made by critics of open borders — replacement migration — as a false narrative. NewsGuard also sells databases of “provably false narratives” so they can censored at scale everywhere across the Internet, using artificial intelligence speech detection techniques:
Replacement migration is the notion that mass migration dilutes the political and economic power of current citizens of a nation, by introducing new voting blocs that tend to side with pro-migration parties, and creating more competition for jobs and wages. Sometimes referred to as the “Great Replacement” theory, the concept is also used to explain political motivations behind pro-migration political parties and organizations (immigrants in the US, for example, tend overwhelmingly to vote for the Democratic party, giving partisans a political incentive to import more people who will vote for them).
Concerns over replacement migration are a live political issue. Tucker Carlson recently put up a satirical billboard calling his new show “The Great Replacement” over legacy broadcast media. Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy has made replacement migration a key issue in his primary campaign. Restricting immigration, and vociferous opposition to open borders, was and remains the pillar plank of Donald Trump’s presidential campaigns from 2016 through 2024.
NewsGuard takes this mainstream conservative concept commonly invoked to oppose mass migration and characterizes it in the most malevolent and bad faith manner possible, calling it a conspiracy theory with “Nazi roots,” used by white supremacists to justify mass shootings. In NewsGuard’s own words:
Anti-immigrant narratives shaped global conversation in 2019 — and spurred three mass shootings in two countries — by reaching sympathetic white readers in their native languages across the U.S., Europe, and beyond.
The so-called “great replacement” and related “white genocide” conspiracy theories have gone nearly mainstream in recent years, evolving from their Nazi roots into ideas spread on sites like One America News Network, an increasingly popular American news site, and the far-right Italian site La Veritá. Articles about the theory have proliferated on sites across France after a French writer re-popularized the idea.
Demographic shifts are difficult to predict. But white people aren’t going extinct, nor are they victims of genocide. Anti-immigrant propaganda successfully exploited these fears in 2019, with tragic results.
By characterizing opposition to open borders in such a way, and attaching massive financial penalties to any online news outlet that promotes such an editorial line, NewsGuard singlehandedly rigs both the social and politic debate over open borders for hundreds of millions of Americans. The financial blacklisting and systematic censorship of political views held in some polls by 80% of the population is definitionally the opposite of the “apolitical” shield NewsGuard seeks to hold up to insulate itself from blowback. It just so happens the political skew of the censorship institution happens to perfectly match the political skew of the key censorship architect in charge.
For more on NewsGuard’s government, intelligence, and political connections, see this explainer from FFO Executive Director Mike Benz:
NewsGuard in a nutshell: pic.twitter.com/4PbZklNQwp
— Mike Benz (@MikeBenzCyber) October 24, 2023
Michael Benz is the Executive Director of the Foundation for Freedom Online. Previously, Mr. Benz served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Communications and Information Technology at the U.S. Department of State. Follow him on Twitter @FFO_Freedom.