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PRESS CONFERENCE: US & NewsGuard Sued for 1st Amendment Violations, Defamation in NY Federal Court

Oct 23, 2023

US & NewsGuard Sued for 1st Amendment Violations, Defamation in NY Federal Court Court Papers: Media ‘Watchdog’ Joined With US Intelligence to Suppress Foreign Policy Dissent The United States government and internet “watchdog” NewsGuard Technologies, Inc. were sued today in federal court in Manhattan for First Amendment violations and defamation by news organization Consortium for Independent Journalism, a nonprofit that publishes Consortium News.

Consortium News‘s court filing charges the Pentagon’s Cyber Command, an element of the Intelligence Community, with contracting with NewsGuard to identify, report and abridge the speech of American media organizations that dissent from U.S. official positions on foreign policy. In the course of its contract with the Pentagon, NewsGuard is “acting jointly or in concert with the United States to coerce news organizations to alter viewpoints” as to Ukraine, Russia, and Syria, imposing a form of “censorship and repression of views” that differ or dissent from policies of the United States and its allies, the complaint says.

Watch the press conference announcing the lawsuit on Monday. Read the entire complaint and the exhibits. "The First Amendment rights of all American media are threatened by this arrangement with the Defense Department to defame and abridge the speech of U.S. media groups," said Bruce Afran, Consortium News's attorney. "When media groups are condemned by the government as 'anti-U.S.' and are accused of publishing 'false content' because they disagree with U.S. policies, the result is self-censorship and a destruction of the public debate intended by the First Amendment," Afran said.

NewsGuard uses its software to tag targeted news sites, including all 20,000+ Consortium News articles an videos published since 1995, with warnings to "proceed with caution," telling NewsGuard subscribers that Consortium News produces "disinformation," "false content" and is an "anti-U.S." media organization, even though NewsGuard only took issue with a total of six CN articles and none of its videos.

The complaint seeks a permanent injunction declaring the joint program unconstitutional; barring the government and NewsGuard from continuing such practices and more than $13 million in damages for defamation and civil rights violations.

Consortium News was founded in 1995 by the late Robert Parry, a highly respected journalist who was a former investigative reporter for the Associated Press and Newsweek magazine, as the first, independent online news site devoted to critiquing U.S. foreign and domestic policy. Parry won the George Polk Award for his work on the Iran-Contra affair in which he revealed the identity and role of Oliver North in fomenting a U.S. operation under President Ronald Reagan to illegally fund the Contras, a Nicaraguan militia. Bruce Afran is a constitutional and public interest lawyer who also teaches first amendment law at Rutgers Law School.

Among other cases, he obtained the release last year of former Black Panther Sundiata Acoli, one of the nation’s longest-serving prisoners after 48 years incarceration. Mr Afran is based in Princeton, New Jersey. Consortium News’s current editor-in-chief, Joe Lauria, is a veteran journalist with decades of experience in major media organizations with his first professional appointment being a position with The New York Times in 1975. In 1990 he began reporting on international affairs from the United Nations in New York for the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph in Britain, and later for The Boston Globe and The Wall Street Journal. Lauria has also been an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London.

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