The advent of fact-checker journalism may be wearing out its welcome. Perhaps the increasing politicization of American life is a contributor to the downward spiral of the fact-checking profession that is primarily run by politically engaged reporters, not expert specialists in the subjects they assess by any sense of the imagination. Not that any one group of experts should have the authority over the truth either. Self-appointed media gatekeepers are a ticking time bomb of political censorship, waiting to be unleashed when the temptations are too great and the necessity for impartiality is even greater. With White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki calling for collusion between social media companies and the government to censor “misinformation”, this threat seems to be as close as ever.
Although fact checkers purport to be independent guardians of accountability, recent events have exposed them as mere enforcers of fashionable political positions. This brings us to a relatively new, but powerful company known as NewsGuard, which claims a partnership with Microsoft and gleaming spotlights in major outlets. Its staff and board boast powerful connections to the government, finance, and the media. According to an Op-ed in Politico written by NewsGuards’ CEO, rather than simply being a fact-checking company that can only debunk stories after they go viral, NewsGuard rates entire websites’ trustworthiness. This new strategy is aimed at discrediting the very source that alleged misinformation or disinformation may come from. NewsGuard publishes lengthy “nutritional labels,” rating websites on various criteria of journalistic importance and outlining its reasons for giving certain ratings. Perhaps one day, these ratings may be used to filter out certain websites, which is what NewsGuard’s CEO alludes to by citing the great political scientist Francis Fukuyama’s article in Foreign Affairs.
In fact, the company made the following tweet on July 17, 2021, essentially siding with Psaki’s call for a government-media partnership to censor internet content.