Congressman Jim Banks, a representative for Indiana’s third congressional district (IN-3) and member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Cyber, Innovative Technologies, and Information Systems, has told the head of US Cyber Command, General Paul Nakasone, to preserve documents related to his department’s use of NewsGuard’s “Misinformation Fingerprints” database.
This Misinformation Fingerprints database is maintained by NewsGuard, a company that flags sites for “misinformation.” The database catalogs what NewsGuard describes as “known hoaxes, falsehoods and misinformation narratives that are spreading online.” In a post about its Misinformation Fingerprints database, NewsGuard notes that each “fingerprint” (entry in the database) can be “combined with AI [artificial intelligence] and social listening tools to identify the initial source of the hoax and instances in which the hoax is repeated or amplified on social networks or the open web.”
The US Department of Defense (DOD) awarded a $749,387 contract to NewsGuard for its Misinformation Fingerprints database in September 2021. NewsGuard has emphasized that its work with the DOD focuses on foreign media sources, not domestic ones.
In a letter to Nakasone, as reported by Breitbart, Banks claimed that US Cyber Command had used NewsGuard to “monitor content containing state-sponsored mis- and disinformation and to identify the main sources publishing known false narratives.” He also noted that the Misinformation Fingerprints database “allows A.I. and machine learning software to monitor and suppress stories and media outlets that NewsGuard has decided are false and unreliable.”
Additionally, Banks accused NewsGuard of “extreme partisan bias” and pointed to NewsGuard’s co-CEO Steve Brill’s comments on the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story. The story was published less than a month before the 2020 US presidential election and was widely censored by Big Tech platforms. Shortly after the story was published, Brill suggested it was a “hoax” but most mainstream media outlets have now admitted that the story was true.
“The Department of Defense’s financial support for the partisan suppression of political speech is an unacceptable and un-American abuse of taxpayer dollars,” Banks wrote. “Restoring political neutrality to the Department of Defense will remain a priority for me during the 118th Congress.”
Banks concluded the letter by asking Nakasone to maintain all internal documents relating to US Cyber Command’s use of Misinformation Fingerprints and all communications between US Cyber Command staff and NewsGuard employees.
The Pentagon’s contract with NewsGuard is one of many examples of the US government’s growing focus on content that it deems to be misinformation and disinformation. In April, the US government and 60 other countries signed a declaration that commits to bolstering “resilience to disinformation and misinformation” and the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) introduced its “Disinformation Governance Board.” And in March, the federal government allocated $2.6 billion to programs that fight “disinformation” and “hate.”