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House Oversight Committee Launches Investigation Into News-Rating System

Suspects in the Crocus City Hall shooting are brought to the Investigation Committee's headquarters in Moscow

The House Oversight Committee has initiated an investigation into a news-rating system that ranks news outlets based on trustworthiness. The focus of the probe is on whether the ratings group's contracts with federal agencies influence the news it attempts to suppress.

Oversight Chair James Comer expressed concerns about NewsGuard's impact on protected First Amendment speech and its potential role as a non-transparent agent of censorship campaigns. The committee is seeking documents from NewsGuard's CEOs regarding their business relationships with government entities, adherence to bias policies, conflict of interest management, and actions that may delegitimize factual information.

Of particular interest is NewsGuard's Department of Defense contract, which has raised questions about federal agencies' involvement in potential censorship campaigns. The committee aims to independently determine if NewsGuard's intervention on protected speech has been sponsored by any government entity.

Comer highlighted NewsGuard's editorial employees' pledge to refrain from political activities, raising doubts about the company's commitment to anti-bias efforts based on the social media activities of some employees listed as 'editorial.'

NewsGuard has received federal funding, primarily from the Department of Defense, and participated in a State Department co-sponsored tech challenge on COVID-19 misinformation. Advertisers use the service to target niche audiences or avoid networks spreading misinformation.

NewsGuard employs journalists and editors to rate news sources based on journalistic criteria, providing reliability ratings and scores. Comer has requested various documents from NewsGuard, including past contracts with government entities and records of disciplinary actions related to editorial employee pledge violations.

The committee is concerned about potential government interference with free expression and the need for truthfulness, transparency, and conflict of interest management. Comer questioned the criteria used by NewsGuard, suggesting bias in favor of certain networks over others.

The requested documents from NewsGuard are due by June 27, 2024, as the investigation continues.

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