An investigation by The Federalist’s Margot Cleveland has found that the Department of Defense (DOD) is fostering relationships with for-profit media-rating companies to develop AI censorship technology, giving rise to the growing Censorship-Industrial Complex.
NewsGuard and PeakMetrics are two such companies benefiting from government funding and attention.
NewsGuard, which received a $25,000 award in 2020 to conduct a pilot study after winning the COVID-19 Disinformation Challenge, later secured a $750,000 award from the Small Business Innovation Research Center (SBIRC) to develop its “Misinformation Fingerprints” program in conjunction with the DOD.
This program uses AI and social listening tools to trace and track the spread of misinformation online.
Meanwhile, PeakMetrics, another winner of the 2020 Pentagon-State Department misinformation and disinformation contest, received a $25,000 pilot study to develop its “social listening” technology with DOD assistance.
In the following year, SBIRC funded PeakMetrics with a total of $1.5 million to further develop its technology.
Before these developments, PeakMetrics participated in the “Air Force Accelerator” in early 2020, according to The Federalist.
The managing director of the accelerator program stated, “In this new age of cyberwarfare and social manipulation, media monitoring, detection, and mitigation of misinformation operations is becoming more important than bombs and bullets.”
The investigation has raised concerns about the government’s involvement in using private businesses’ technology for monitoring and censoring Americans.
PeakMetrics has claimed to have worked with the U.S. State Department and the Department of Defense during the 2020 and 2022 U.S. elections but has not provided specific details about its involvement.
Another point of concern is the partnership between PeakMetrics and NewsGuard, announced in January 2022, which allows corporate clients to use PeakMetrics’ media monitoring programs to “filter, sort, and discover mentions of a brand or topic based on NewsGuard’s credibility ratings.”
This partnership could potentially lead to censorship of private speech.
In a previous partnership between the two companies, they conducted a questionable analysis of Parler posts that claimed 87% of news shared on the platform before Jan 6, 2021, came from misinformation sites.
Critics argue that this analysis is an example of disinformation itself, with the companies using their technology to silence disfavored news outlets.
“While we don’t know fully what the DOD intends to do with the NewsGuard and PeakMetrics technology, we do know the government has a history of silencing inconvenient speech by branding it ‘disinformation’—even when it is true and even if it is Americans expressing their views,” Cleveland concludes.