At least two private companies have received major military grants to develop online surveillance tools, The Federalist reported.
The US Department of Defense funds private internet monitoring companies NewsGuard and PeakMetrics, which then crawl the web to disinformation to censor and demonetize, the conservative news site The Federalist reported on Friday.
NewsGuard is a private company that rates media on their “reliability” and sharing reputation “Lies and Disinformation Narratives.” Ahead of a congressional hearing last week, journalist Matt Taibbi tagged the company a part of “censorship-industrial complex”, posting an image of a $750,000 Pentagon grant to the company. During the hearing, journalist Michael Shellenberger explained that NewsGuard uses its rating system to divert advertiser revenue from conservative bulls or other “disadvantaged publications”.
In a E-mail in Taibbi, Newsguard CEO Gordon Crovitz denied receiving government funding, saying instead that the government was paying for access to his data. The Pentagon, he writes, is specifically looking for evidence of “Russian and Chinese Disinformation.”
However, NewsGuard received a $25,000 prize from the Pentagon in 2020, after winning the military’s ‘Countering Covid-19 Disinformation’ competition. challengeThe Federalist, a conservative media, reported Friday. A year later, Newsguard received $750,000 to develop an AI-powered system database of disinformation networks alongside the Ministry of Defence.
NewsGuard is one of many such companies funded by the Pentagon. PeakMetrics was another winner of the Covid-19 challenge, winning a $25,000 grant to develop “social listening” technology for the army. It received an additional $1.5 million from the federal government in 2021, but even before that the company had been flagged as potentially useful to the Pentagon.
In early 2020, PeakMetrics participated in the Air Force Accelerator program, where it developed “Measurement tools to detect disinformation campaigns.” According to The Federalist, he put these tools to good use in the 2020 and 2022 elections in the United States. At that time, PeakMetrics only worked for the US State Department and the Pentagon, later offering its services to the private sector.
It is unclear what the Pentagon is aiming to achieve during these election observation campaigns. PeakMetrics did not respond to a request for comment from The Federalist.
In addition to paying private companies to develop web monitoring tools, the Pentagon, along with a number of other government agencies and departments, has directly engaged in social media censorship in recent years. Internal Twitter communications released by Taibbi, Shellenberger and other reporters showed that the social media giant “directly helped” the U.S. military’s online influence campaigns and censorship “anti-Ukrainian stories” on behalf of several intelligence agencies. The platform also received extended lists of accounts to be banned from the US State Department and associated NGOs.
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