newsguard thinking
Well, they finally got around to 'officially' marking 'fake news'.

In October 2018, a representative of 'NewsGuard Technologies', a self-described "news rating agency," reached out and invited us to answer "some questions regarding's background and editorial practices." Based on the false assumptions that were clear in their questions, and their ludicrous examples of content they deemed "far-right," we immediately had a good idea of who they were and what their shtick was. (Ostensibly, "combating online disinformation." Really, cracking down on dissent.) We nevertheless humored NewsGuard with detailed responses, which apparently stumped them because it was another 14 months before they got back to us.

Much background digging has been done on this outfit in the meantime, but for now I'll summarize NewsGuard's pitch then share with readers some of our most recent correspondence with them. NewsGuard's 'technology' is a free opt-in browser extension that flags search engine results and social media posts that include links to content from news and information sites with a color-coded 'nutrition label'. They base it on nine 'journalistic criteria', five for credibility and four for transparency.

If you download the NewsGuard app and see a red shield appear next to a post or search result, this means it comes from a site NewsGuard has deemed 'fake news'; if a green shield appears, users may proceed to click on it, safe in the knowledge that it's from a 'trustworthy' news site. While they don't actually say ' is fake news', that is clearly implied given the climate in which this is taking place. The red shield contains an exclamation mark and next to it appears a warning to "proceed with caution," and a link to "see the full Nutrition Label" (here's's). They even have a third category: a yellow shield with a smiley face in it, reserved for satirical news sites like The Onion, along with this helpful explainer: "This is a satire or humor source. It is not an actual news source."

While this is a free opt-in browser extension for now, NewsGuard has big plans to roll it out nationwide in the US - and its powerful backers are also intensively lobbying the EU to do likewise - as a default feature in libraries and educational institutions, and is in the process of securing big contracts with Big Tech to have it baked into devices and operating systems like Microsoft Windows, and/or 'at source', directly with Internet Service Providers. NewsGuard isn't the only such initiative taking off; a plethora of similar 'news ranking initiatives' are competing to "turn media credibility into a booming business."

NewsGuard contacted us again in December 2019 with essentially the same set of questions as before, just with different examples of content we've republished that they found 'problematic'. Oh, and just three days to reply. Their questions are in the grey boxes; our responses in the beige boxes...
My name is John Gregory, a reporter and analyst with NewsGuard, a new company seeking to fight false news and misinformation by reviewing news and information sites' credibility and transparency. We seek comments from the sites we're reviewing out of fairness and for the benefit of readers.

I believe you spoke to one of my colleagues last year about but we have re-evaluated the website, and had questions about the site's editorial and transparency questions.

1.) Our review notes that the site discloses its ownership by the Quantum Future Group. For nonprofit owners, however, our standard calls for some disclosure of major financial supporters, which we did not find either on or the QFG site. Does the website disclose any of its major donors? Are the majority of financial contributions in small amounts?
Yes, the majority of financial contributions are in small amounts from private individuals - incorporated or otherwise for their own tax purposes. 'Major' donors are rare and are disclosed to the IRS accordingly. Quantum Future Group (QFG) is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit publicly supported organization run entirely on a voluntary basis. As such it is required to file a 990 Form (with accompanying Schedules) annually with the IRS. These are available for public viewing on the IRS website, complete with declarations that we receive no donations from foreign corporations, trusts, non-profits or foundations. Corporate media organizations are required by law to disclose the names of other entities that are financial backers and thus have a stake in the editorial policy and financial well-being of that corporation. QFG is not required by law to disclose the names of private individual donors who are end-users of information products.
2.) We've noted that the site often republishes articles that include false or unsubstantiated claims. They include:
  • A June 2019 article quoting author Stephen Landmann calling 9/11 "the mother of all false flags" and saying the CIA and "very likely also Israel's Mossad" were responsible.
Note that the publisher of the original article frames Lendman's opinion in the context of conflicting claims:
"US officials assert that the attacks were carried out by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists but many experts have raised questions about the official account."
It is accepted practice to re-publish, cite or otherwise refer to information published by other media organizations in which they interview analysts, journalists and authors who in turn cite or refer to experts who have suggested, claimed, or otherwise stated that Western intelligence agencies may have been involved in the 9/11 attacks. That NewsGuard finds said experts' claims "false or unsubstantiated" is - absent legal discovery in a court of law - a matter of NewsGuard opinions conflicting with others'.

We saw no need to qualify or comment on the interviewee's specific claim regarding CIA and Mossad involvement in 9/11 because he is himself an award-winning blogger with a large body of work substantiating this claim, much of it re-published on and thus familiar to our readers.

Additionally, it is a matter of historical record that governments conduct 'false-flag' military operations, and thus the interviewee's placing of 9/11 in historical context alone suffices to substantiate his claim. (For a detailed history of US false-flag events, see for example The American Trajectory: Divine or Demonic? (2018, Clarity Press, Inc., ISBN-13: 978-0998694795) by American professor of philosophy of religion and theology, David R. Griffin.)
The author in question is an example of one of those experts referenced above. A former CIA analyst (or officer), Philip Giraldi is particularly well-positioned to make substantiated claims on this matter. Together with two dozen other former officers of US intelligence agencies, he co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), which produces evidence-based 'memos' (effectively public reports) that typically make substantially different claims to officially-sanctioned sources. QFG and thus considers it in the public interest, and in line with its Articles of Incorporation, to disseminate the findings and considerable opinions of said experts to the public.
  • A September 2019 article covering a non-peer-reviewed study funded by a 9/11 "truther" group that claims World Trade Center 7 was not brought down by fires, a claim directly refuted by the 2008 NIST investigation into the World Trade Center collapse.
First, a general point: the NIST investigation precedes the University of Alaska study by 11 years. As such, the former cannot "refute" the latter because scientific research is never 'complete'.

By NewsGuard's derogatory characterization of this study as "non-peer-reviewed" and as having been "funded by a 9/11 'truther' group," we infer that NewsGuard disagreed with the findings presented by civil engineering experts.

NewsGuard's opinions on the study's findings aside, it cannot reasonably claim that the University of Alaska study's findings are "unsubstantiated" just because its analysis and simulations reached a different conclusion as to what caused the collapse of World Trade Center Building 7 than the NIST investigation. As such, it cannot reasonably claim that "republished a false or unsubstantiated claim."
  • An August 2019 article about the murder of Seth Rich that states: "Many, including me, suspect that Rich played some role in the leaking of DNC emails to WikiLeaks. There is considerable circumstantial evidence that this may have been the case." The report from special counsel Robert Mueller determined Russian hackers were the source of the DNC emails and Rich had died 4 days before WikiLeaks received the emails.
Again, the author of this quote, Ray McGoven, is a former CIA analyst and thus of credible and relevant expertise. Additionally, he is a member of VIPS, referred to earlier. NewsGuard may weigh his claims against Mueller's, as we have done, but it has no authority, presumptive or otherwise, to 'finally determine' which of the two sets of claims are "unsubstantiated" and thus "false." Certainly, special counsel Mueller's claims carry with them the weight of US government approval, but given that the claims pertain to the 2016 US presidential election, and the disputed legitimacy and alleged foreign backing of its victor, the sitting president, by no means do Mueller's claims have the exclusive backing of the US government.

Former intelligence officers and analysts can do a number of things when they retire, including becoming freelance analysts conducting media or advocacy work, like McGovern, and becoming special counsels in high-profile investigations, like Mueller. Based solely on the "considerable circumstantial evidence" he marshals in that article, McGovern's claims about the DNC leak/hack are at least as substantiated as the Mueller report's claims were about "Russian hackers." Believers in the latter seem to have forgotten, or never noticed, that the Intelligence Community Assessments and other official documents that formed the impetus for the special counsel investigation included explicitly stated caveats that they were 'judgements', and not to be taken as factual claims!

In the specific circumstances NewsGuard cites - "Russian hackers" providing the DNC emails to Wikileaks, and thus rendering irrelevant the murder of Seth Rich to that data being "hacked" - substantial challenges to this narrative have been mounted by experts in the public domain, not least by William Binney, retired NSA cryptanalyst-mathematician and member of the aforementioned VIPS, who has published forensic analysis which concluded that the DNC email files were downloaded in-place at DNC premises.
  • An October 2019 article promoting the widely-debunked link between vaccines and autism: "Neurotoxins from vaccines are setting their brains on fire, causing the inflammation that is responsible for a spectrum of brain disorders, up to and including autism."
That article is certainly over-the-top in terms of its tone and imagery. It's not even clear what its point is, which is unfortunate because the original publisher is generally a credible and judicious source of information on health-related topics. responds to readers' feedback by correcting, updating or removing content that either contains false claims or makes an overall suggestion that is unsupportable. Thanks to you bringing this particular claim to our attention, we have deleted the article because we do not agree with its suggestion that vaccination is 'inherently evil'.

However, I should point out that the quote you pulled from that article is the only mention of the vaccines-autism link in it because the author referred to it only in passing. Far from being unsubstantiated, the claim of a link between vaccines and autism is strong. Yes, it is also "widely-debunked," but that debunking is taking place in the context of an intense debate within academic and medical professional fields, thus the science on it is most certainly not 'settled'.

The following, for example, was published last year on a news website NewsGuard gave its 'Green Nutrition Label' to. It reports on the substantiated claim by pediatric neurologist Dr. Andrew Zimmerman, who reversed his earlier position that there is no link between vaccines and autism:
the hill vaccines autism
Then there is Dr. Kenneth P Stoller, who resigned from the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2008, alleging that the organization was covering up a link between vaccines and autism.

In addition to disseminating expert information concerning the link between vaccines and autism, we find it in the public interest to report instances of political or professional repercussions to congressmen and experts who report or publish their findings substantiating a link between vaccines and autism.

And so there is, at the very least, demonstrable correlation, although causation remains unproven for all cases and forms of autism.

Having spent almost two decades observing this debate, it is the considered opinion of our editors who manage content in our Health & Wellness category - a number of whom are medical practitioners including MDs and professional nutritionists - that autism is likely caused by a cluster of environmental factors, of which some types of vaccines constitute one causal factor.
  • An October 2019 article claiming HPV vaccine have been linked to "disabling autoimmune conditions and deaths." Multiple large studies have found no causal link between receiving the HPV vaccine and either autoimmune diseases or deaths.
NewsGuard should re-read that article, and the articles and studies it links to, then use the search function on for the dozens of other articles we have published on HPV vaccines over the years.

A thorough review of all the issues surrounding this topic cannot reasonably lead to a conclusion that there is "no substance" to claims that HPV vaccines are linked to disabling autoimmune conditions and deaths.

Serious issues in the public interest have been raised by health professionals, scientists, parents and government officials the world over concerning the original vaccine trials, their effectiveness in preventing cancers, their deleterious side-effects on significant numbers of those vaccinated, the egregious conflicts of interest between many study authors or their employers/institutions and the pharmaceutical manufacturers of HPV vaccines, political corruption in the legislative implementation of the vaccines, and diagnostic and epidemiological issues raised by experts that are ignored or viciously attacked.

In fact, studies suggest that the foundational claim that HPV causes cervical cancers is itself highly questionable.
3.) What is's response to failing NewsGuard's criteria for repeatedly publishing false information in articles and headlines and failing to gather and present information responsibly based on these examples?
As demonstrated above, NewsGuard's criteria for determining what constitutes "false information" and "failing to gather and present information responsibly" are subjective. Although this is to be expected in the sphere of media and public information, where there are always at least 'two sides to a story', the 'editorial outlook' we infer from NewsGuard's line of questioning, and its incorrect characterization of the content it has sampled as "false and unsubstantiated," together suggest that NewsGuard has taken an unduly narrow or one-sided position and runs the risk of irresponsibly labelling valid news sources as 'fake news'.

Are we to deduce from NewsGuard's mischaracterization of claims published on as "false and unsubstantiated" that NewsGuard sees the media's proper role as essentially reporting certain authorities' declarations and defending them against substantiated claims to the contrary?

It is today a matter of historical fact that "repeatedly publishing false information" correctly characterizes media coverage in the run-up to the launch of 'Operation Iraqi Freedom' in 2003, often by the very media organizations NewsGuard today designates as "mostly adhering to basic standards of credibility and transparency" under its "Green Nutrition Label."

Several decades ago, authorities began recommending a drastic reduction in the consumption of animal fats, to be replaced with increased consumption in hydrogenated fats and sugars. Governments today are in the process of reversing those dietary recommendations 180 degrees because the original scientific studies have been falsified by later science.

Perhaps if NewsGuard subjected its own criteria to transparent and critical examination, it might 'take' successfully with readers of online news content as a responsible and credible adjudicator of the veracity of information?
4.) We've also noted that the site regularly republishes satirical stories, often from The Babylon Bee, without labeling them as such. Why does the site not label satirical articles such as this? 'If elected, I will put AOC in charge of math' says Bernie
Yes, we republish satirical stories, along with other light-hearted news items, in a category we label 'Don't Panic! Lighten Up!'

We also include some 'serious' news items in there when they are, or ought to be, self-evidently farcical. If you scroll down to the foot of our homepage, you'll see this humor category is clearly marked as such, complete with smiley face icon:
DPLU sott homepage
I suppose we could add a note at the beginning of each article in this category, along the lines of...

Warning: this article is not to be taken seriously

...but we assume a level of intelligence in our readers that enables them to discern satire from regular news items. On the rare occasion when members of the readers' community report uncertainty in their comments below the article, other readers (and editors of course) are on hand to reassure them that the item in question is satire.
5.) We could not find any examples of published corrections on the site. What is the site's policy for correcting errors in either its own stories or those republished on the site?
As is standard practice online, errors in articles are corrected. If some time has passed, i.e. a day or more, and the corrections are substantial or significant to claims made within, the correction is offset by appearing in blue ' comment boxes'. See here for example.

In articles we republish from other news sites, corrections and follow-up developments are clearly marked 'UPDATES', and that content also appears in blue ' comment boxes'. Typically, the article title is also amended to reflect that change. See here, here and here for example.

Additionally, when asked by parties directly or indirectly mentioned in articles to either remove their names or the entire article, we generally oblige. This typically occurs in cases where legal issues have been decided in their favour and they have since been absolved of any wrongdoing.

We also regularly delete articles that have been flagged - post-publishing - by other editors or readers as having questionable or false claims. Content we republish that includes claims known to us at the time to be false are 'truthified' with commentary, clearly offset from the original content in blue ' comment boxes'.

As such, we have been fact-checking since long before it became a government policy issue.
6.) The About page describes as "leading alternative news site providing independent journalism and unbiased analysis," yet the selection of stories on seems to favor conservative views. Why then does the site describe itself as "unbiased?"
Since its inception, has been labelled every political shade under the Sun. This is in part due to changing societal circumstances - what is 'liberal' today may become 'conservative' tomorrow - but is largely down to the political outlook of the beholder.

A serious review of our content would find that can variously be described as anti-war (but not strictly pacifist); pro-choice on abortion (but under limited circumstances); pro-capitalism (but against speculative finance); anti-mass immigration (but in favour of trade and cultural exchanges); pro-socialism (though limited to certain areas); concerned with animal welfare and environmental conservation (but emphasising the major role Nature plays in climate change); promoting self-development and individual responsibility (but also encouraging participation in the wider community); pro-civil rights (but wary of social justice taken to ideological extremes), critical of religions (without neglecting their cultural importance), socially conservative (while defending classical liberalism), and pro-science (but critical of its quasi-religious dogma).

Now, try picking a place on the political spectrum for us out of that.

That's in response to your assumption. In answer to your question, claims to be unbiased because it has no political goals, no 'team' to defend, and no social justice to achieve. On this topic we may be 'progressive' today; on that topic we may be 'conservative' tomorrow. We have no sponsors, no corporate donors, no government backing, no trust grants. This way, we are in as disinterested a position as can be when making analyses and determinations about events, topics, trends and patterns. That still leaves in-born and cultural biases in the volunteers who make up its staff of course, and we work to correct for those by researching and disseminating psychological research - such as the latest findings in cognitive and neurological science - to go hand-in-hand with our content on political, societal and environmental developments.

Can NewsGuard say the same for the biases that went into its selection criteria?
7.) We've also noted numerous examples where articles not labeled as opinion include writers' opinionated statements, such as a September 2019 article from site founder Laura Knight-Jadczyk, that called Greta Thunberg "pathetic, psychologically and mentally challenged" and asserted that "she has been thoroughly brainwashed."

How does the site separate news articles from opinion?
In the two decades has been publishing news, we have received no complaints that we don't visibly separate news articles from opinion - nor even a suggestion that we do so. I suppose, in general, content we publish with authors' names in the byline is 'opinion'.

How does any site "separate news articles from opinion," in fact? Much if not most content on all news sites - including their 'news articles' - is steeped in opinion. You see it reflected in editors' choices of topics, editors' choices of headlines and subheadlines, editors' choices of phrasing and tone, editors' choices of images, and editors' choices about which facts to include and which sources to give weight to and rely on.

The ability to separate news reporting from opinion is, by now, 25 years into the Internet age, commonly understood to be a task automatically undertaken by readers of online news, whose critical skills and - most importantly - ability to comment under articles, enable them to detect and critically correct 'opinionated' content embedded within 'news articles'.

The single most common criticism we receive from our readership is the question: "What is this article doing on!"

They need say no more. We recognize that their full complaint is that our publishing of the article in question - whether it be an "opinionated" op-ed by a named author or an anonymous summary write-up about a relatively mundane event - strikes them as incompatible with what they had thus far deduced to be our overall editorial slant, the 'sum total' of's 'opinion', on that and related topics.
Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. Your responses will be used in our published rating of the site.
John, a Chicago-area sports writer and PR man for a private healthcare marketing firm before he became an 'expert on journalistic integrity', ignored our demolition of his false claims to zero in on's financing, persistently seeking 'clarification' about what our largest reader donations have ever been, and why he couldn't see these at the QFG listing of our tax returns on the IRS website. An inane back-and-forth followed, with us having to conduct legal research for John then explain to him what the IRS considers as 'large' donations, and what its apparent disclosure rules are for 501(c)(3) entities.

He never quite said it, but it was apparent to us that John was trying to ferret from us the names and addresses of our most loyal readers. He presumably justified this 'diligent investigative journalism' to himself as necessary for 'ruling out Russian state funding of', but NewsGuard's more likely, pernicious game here is to gather names of American dissidents on behalf of the company's spooky backers.

Apparently dissatisfied with our levels of transparency, John informed us "there will be no change to []'s score on our criteria at this time." At that point, we noticed this jobsworth was publishing a false interpretation of our correspondence with him on the NewsGuard 'full Nutrition Label' about, so we began calling him out on his game of NIGYSOB, telling him that:
It's beginning to look like NewsGuard has a tendency towards fixing the facts around a previously established belief and then publishing on that basis.

That doesn't seem to be in keeping with an organization with the self-described remit to "fight false news, misinformation, and disinformation."

Quite the contrary in fact.
NewsGuard's captious interest in our readers' financial donations are particularly interesting in light of the company's own failure to disclose the sources of its million$, as noted by journalist Whitney Webb in her investigations for MintPress News into NewsGuard's powerful connections:
NewsGuard has powerful financial investors - not least Publicis Groupe, the third-largest global communications company in the world... NewsGuard managed to raise $6 million to begin its ranking efforts in March of 2018. NewsGuard's actual revenues and financing, however, have not been disclosed despite the fact that it requires the sites it ranks to disclose their funding. In a display of pure hypocrisy, NewsGuard's United States Securities and Exchange Commission Form D — which was filed March 5, 2018 — states that the company "declined to disclose" the size of its total revenue.
In the interest of honoring the journalistic criteria NewsGuard claims to uphold, we turned the tables and invited them to comment on the apparent conflict of interest in having former CIA Director Michael Hayden on its Advisory Board, given that his successor has publicly divulged that the intelligence organization "holds training sessions on how to lie, cheat and steal":
Hi John,

You give a 'red x' on 'transparency', yet we have always been fully transparent with the public, and now with you, about the nature of our work, the motivation for it and our funding sources. Yet this is still not enough. How to explain this other than that you came to us with a preformed belief about our work, that you then set out to 'confirm' with your particular type of questioning? As such, you fail to adhere to your own criteria on credibility in that you do not "handle the difference between news and opinion responsibly." Your personal opinion (bias) appears to infuse all of your questions to and your subsequent judgement of our work.

Given that NewsGuard emerged out of the claims by US intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, how do you reconcile NewsGuard's assumption that those claims are truthful with the statement by former CIA director Mike Pompeo that during his time at the agency: "we lied we cheated we stole... we had entire training courses!" ?

In the interest of transparency, we are formally requesting that you post the above on our 'nutrition' page as part of our correspondence.

Furthermore, we're planning to write an article on NewsGuard and would like to make sure that we gather and present information, and handle the difference between news and opinion, responsibly. To this end, we would appreciate it if you could ask one of your board members, former CIA director Michael Hayden, if the statement made by former CIA director Mike Pompeo, referenced above, is an accurate reflection of the agency's ethos.

We would appreciate it if you could reply within 3 days.

On a related topic, I thought I would pass this article on to you. I did a google search for the terms "West" "Steele" "Trump" "Allason" and set the time frame as the last week. The only mainstream media reports on this important story come from the Times UK and the BBC. Not a single US-based mainstream source has carried it. As such, I suspect you may have missed it.

Unless I'm mistaken, many of the mainstream news sites that NewsGuard has given a 'green check mark' reported on the Steele dossier at the time as if it were valid information. A few sites, such as, quickly exposed it for the fabrication it was.

Anyway, here's the Times article. I believe it's relevant to your work given that the fabricated Steele dossier contributed significantly to the 'Russian interference' allegation on which a significant part of Newsguard's raison d'etre is based.

Ex-MI6 spy 'fabricated dossier on Trump and prostitutes'
They didn't respond to that email.

Nor did NewsGuard, needless to say, give us their Little Green Badge of Righteousness and Truth:
newsguard sott label screenshot
Click to enlarge
Among other sites NewsGuard has handed red 'no-go' tickets to are RT and Sputnik, Wikileaks, investigative news site MintPress News, news aggregator Drudge Report, The Duran, Zero Hedge, the One America News Network, and Global Research. Notice that they're either, broadly-speaking, American and of nationalist/conservative persuasion, or international in focus and anti-empire. All have been labelled 'fake news' and 'pro-Kremlin' by representatives of the US government and its satellite Washington DC think-tanks over the last few years.

The NewsGuard Advisory Board includes a bevy of former top editors and publishers at major Western media companies, former spy chiefs, and top bureaucrats from NATO countries, not least:
  • the aforementioned former CIA director Michael Hayden
  • former NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen (who once claimed, way back in 2014 when all this madness began, that the anti-fracking protest movement is a Kremlin conspiracy to increase Europe's dependence on Russian natural gas)
  • Tom Ridge, the first Homeland Security Secretary when that new US government branch was instituted following 9/11
  • Don Baer, a former White House Communications Director under Bill Clinton
  • Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, where literally anyone can make up any old claim, something British intelligence has taken full advantage of
  • British Tory MP Ed Vaizey, formerly UK Minister for Culture and Communications
  • Richard Stengel, former editor of Time magazine and Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy under Obama
Then there is the NewsGuard staff of about 50, which includes career journalists from major media companies in the US and Europe, and which is led by its two co-founders, Stephen Brill and Gordon Crovitz, both New York City career journalists with various NYC and DC outlets. Crovitz is additionally a member of the Council of Foreign Relations, formerly executive vice-president of Dow Jones and publisher of the Washington Post, and editor of books published by two decidedly NeoConservative DC think-tanks, the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation.
L. Gordon Crovitz
© Mark Lennihan/Associated PressL. Gordon Crovitz, then-publisher of The Wall Street Journal, introduces the redesign of the newspaper, Dec. 4, 2006 in New York.
Crovitz's NewsGuard is currently rating thousands of websites according to standards of 'trustworthniess' set by him, yet Crovitz himself is the one with a history of making false and unsubstantiated claims - not least 'covering' for the NSA at the time of the Snowden leaks by claiming that the intelligence behemoth's illegal mass surveillance of Americans was in fact evidence of its "obsess[ion] with complying with the complex rules limiting its authority":
Crovitz has repeatedly been accused of inserting misinformation into his Wall Street Journal columns, with groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation accusing him of "repeatedly getting his facts wrong" on NSA surveillance and other issues. Some of the blatant falsehoods that have appeared in Crovitz's work have never been corrected, even when his own sources called him out for misinformation.
War on Truth

So what is this really all about? Ever since the US establishment shat its collective pants in the summer of 2016 over strong indicators that Trump was likely to win the election, they have been gunning for 'fake news' and 'Russian meddling'. By the time Trump did win it, US intelligence reports comprising provably false and unsubstantiated claims were being used as impeccable primary sources by the mainstream media to launch systematic attacks against alternative and independent media sources to pressure search engines and social media platforms into shadow-banning, throttling and outright censoring dissenting voices. The heads of Google, Facebook and Twitter were hauled up before Congress, asked would they do their part to 'protect our democracy', threatened with regulation and anti-monopoly break-ups, then told they could either 'do this the hard way or the easy way'.

Russian media share of the US market was and is fractional, so this was only ever a foil for justifying a major bi-partisan clampdown on internal dissent. Under the ideological guise of confronting a 'foreign enemy threat', Congress and 'the Intelligence Community' instructed social media platforms to drastically narrow their users' visibility of content. Zuckerberg pointed out, correctly, that there was no way in hell Facebook would be able to screen all content, but with the willing and able assistance of ideologues at think-tanks like the Atlantic Council, for-profit ventures like NewsGuard soon sprang up, like mushrooms after a rain, to 'capture the new market' of 'fact-checking news reports', flagging 'fake news' and thereby 'restoring trust and accountability' in US mainstream media.
zuckerberg congress
The Zuck hauled up before Congress in April 2018: "No pressure Mark, just prove that you love your country and we can make this media pressure go away"
What they're really doing of course is eliminating the competition in order to maintain control of the narratives they have long been used to dominating if not dictating. NewsGuard boasts that advertisers are using its ratings to "build a list of reliable news sites safe for advertising and to keep ads off inappropriate sites," implying that one of its aims is to starve websites they don't like of ad revenue. This doesn't directly affect because we don't (and can't, because of our educational non-profit status) accept advertising, nor do we monetize any of our social media accounts, but it does hurt content creators we wish to support by republishing or citing their content.

The problem the establishment had on its hands was an "excess of democracy": Americans - and internet users across the West - were 'too freely' self-selecting which online news reports and opinions they chose to read, thereby tailoring their news feed from a far wider range of sources than they had ever been exposed to before. This resulted in, among other things, Trump's election (much to the establishment's dislike). In the name of 'protecting national security', the establishment responded by engaging in massive market intervention and unleashing a coordinated effort between intelligence bureaucrats, Wall Street financiers, Big Tech and the legacy media to protect their own privileged positions atop the heap, in the US and beyond.

As the globe transitions from the post-WW2 hegemonic hierarchy of 'Pax Americana' to a flatter, more democratic system of multipolar cooperation because of the rise of Russia, China, India and others, the very world order is changing before the eyes of the US establishment. They cannot bear it, and they won't bear witness to it, so they're engaging in a last-gasp push for communist-style centralized control of information in a desperate and futile attempt to retain control over the contents of the minds of the average Westerner.