Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), a member of the House Armed Services Committee and chairman of the influential Republican Study Committee, has written a letter to the head of U.S. Cyber Command, giving notice that it should preserve documents related to the Department of Defense’s decision to award a $750,000 contract to NewsGuard.
Breitbart News reported on the NewsGuard contract at the end of April, which was awarded to the partisan establishment organization’s “misinformation fingerprints” project, described as a “catalog of known hoaxes, falsehoods and misinformation narratives that are spreading online.”
In a letter to Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, commander of U.S. Cyber Command, Rep. Banks said the Pentagon’s contract amounted to using taxpayer money to suppress political speech, calling it “un-American” and an “abuse of taxpayer dollars.”
Noting NewsGuard’s extreme partisan bias, Rep. Banks wrote, “Restoring political neutrality to the Department of Defense will remain a priority for me during the 118th Congress.”
The full letter follows:
Dear General Nakasone:
I’m writing to you today regarding a $749, 387 federal grant the U.S. Air Force’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) contracting office awarded to a company called NewsGuard Technologies Inc. in September 2021. According to USASpending,gov, the taxpayer dollars were spent on NewsGuard Technologies’ “Misinformation Fingerprints” program.
U.S. Cyber Command has used Misinformation Fingerprints to “monitor content containing state-sponsored mis- and disinformation and to identify the main sources publishing known false narratives.” NewsGuard describes its Misinformation Fingerprints program as: “a catalogue of known hoaxes… The dataset for each narrative includes a description of each hoax and why it is false, examples of stories, social media posts, videos, and other content containing the hoax, and related keywords and hashtags.” Basically, the Misinformation Fingerprints program allows A.I. and machine learning software to monitor and suppress stories and media outlets that NewsGuard has decided are false and unreliable.
The problem is that NewsGuard has an extreme partisan bias. NewsGuard’s co-CEO, Steve Brill, claimed there’s “a high likelihood that this [Hunter Biden laptop] story is a hoax, maybe even a hoax perpetrated by the Russians.” NPR and the New York Times both received a 100/100 credibility rating from NewsGuard, after dismissing the New York Post’s verified reporting on Hunter Biden’s laptop. According to reporting from the Washington Free Beacon, NewsGuard’s staff overwhelmingly supports the Democrat Party: “Twenty NewsGuard executives and advisers have contributed to Democratic candidates since 2015, with only six giving to Republicans.”
The Department of Defense’s financial support for the partisan suppression of political speech is an unacceptable and un-American abuse of taxpayer dollars. Restoring political neutrality to the Department of Defense will remain a priority for me during the 118th Congress.
To ensure the House Armed Services Committee’s ability to fulfill its oversight duties, please maintain all internal documents related to U.S. Cyber Command’s use of Misinformation Fingerprints and all communications between U.S. Cyber Command staff and NewsGuard Technologies Inc. employees.
Ranking Member, House Armed Services Subcommittee on Cyber, Innovative Technologies, and Information Systems
NewsGuard has a track record of giving negative ratings to conservative-leaning publications, while giving a positive “green” rating to establishment media outlets with a track record of publishing hoaxes, like Rolling Stone. NewsGuard recently partnered with a major teacher’s union to teach kids how to spot “misinformation.”
Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election.