For those who may not know, the organization NewsGuard is among the self-appointed arbiters that define what is legitimate news and what is “disinformation.”
But this week, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis put NewsGuard on notice for its alleged left-wing environmental, social, and governance standards, or ESG.
ESG serves to rate companies based their adherence to left-wing ideals on climate change and social justice, and many believe that using ESG metrics threatens a company’s ability to access capital.
Patronis is among them.
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“Americans have the ability to shape outcomes through elections — and the idea that ESG is leveraged to circumvent those processes is arrogant and part of a leftist program,” Patronis said in a letter to NewsGuard.
“Moreover, the fact that some companies have figured out a way to monetize ESG will create antitrust issues down the road, especially as Congress has signaled that they plan to scrutinize the role of ESG in our nation’s economy.”
NewsGuard deploys journalists to “rate the credibility of news and information websites.” Like The Free Press, which we received a failing score and were removed from Bing News.
The company responded to Patronis by claiming its work is “not related” to ESG metrics, and that they do not rate based on ESG metrics.
In its reply, NewsGuard suggested Patroinis may have “confused” it with “entities that are partisan in their work.” The company claims it operates “in a strictly apolitical and fully transparent manner.”
To try to wiggle out from Patronis’ monitoring, NewsGuard noted that many news websites are “operated by the Communist Party” and “fail to disclose their ownership and control.”
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Patronis, however, noted in his letter that he understood NewsGuard is “telling conservative outlets to self-identify as conservative outlets.”
“Moreover, NewsGuard is promoting a ratings system for quality of information, as though you are some kind of arbiter of truth. This activity is similar to other organizations who ranked and categorized businesses as part of corrupt ESG practices,” he added.
Patronis argued that NewsGuard’s grading falls “right in line with similar efforts to defund conservative organizations who are competing in the realm of ideas.”
The CFO added that NewsGuard’s actions “may trigger Florida’s divestment laws and be subject to legislative scrutiny,” Florida’s Voice reported.
“Moreover, if your actions target any Florida business, as someone who’s charged with protecting Florida’s economy and economic vitality, I will not hesitate to use the full force of my office to shed light on the organization you’re running,” Patronis said.
NewsGuard claimed that it does not “‘tell’ publishers to do anything.”
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“The fact that we apply our criteria equally to all publishers means that there are right-wing publishers with high scores and left-wing publishers with low scores and vice versa,” the company maintained.
In response to NewsGuard eyeing his own company, Florida’s Voice founder and CEO Brendon Leslie has observed that “federally funded” NewsGuard is “big mad Florida’s Voice doesn’t push fake narratives and now is writing a hit piece about us.”
A NewsGuard reporter confirmed that a “minor portion” of its revenue is funneled through “small” federal contracts.
In 2021, NewsGuard launched an “exclusion and inclusion” tool for marketers called Responsible Advertising for News Segments (RANS) that aims to protect companies from “having their ads unintentionally fund thousands of misinformation and hoax websites.”
RANS gives CEOs and ESG board committees a way to ensure that “corporate advertising dollars match their values by no longer unintentionally funding the online misinformation and disinformation.”
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