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Coalition Letter to US Senate Committees

BREAKING: Awake IL joined a coalition letter to the US Senate Committees published today. Press Release below.

 

PRESS RELEASE: Coalition of Ed & Tech Groups Urge Congress to Investigate NewsGuard & American Federation of Teachers Partnership WASHINGTON – Today, leaders in education and tech policy from 19 organizations sent a letter to the Chairs and Ranking Members of Senate Committees and Subcommittees involved in education policy and oversight, as well as members of House and Senate leadership, expressing serious concerns about a new “anti-misinformation” partnership between the liberal American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and NewsGuard, highlighting the harm that could be done to students and the dangers to core American values in our schools. In January, the American Federation of Teachers announced a “national partnership with NewsGuard to combat misinformation online.” As a result, tens of millions of students and their families will be exposed to “traffic light” news ratings from NewsGuard, which has a demonstrated history of left-wing bias. AFT has become an intensely partisan organization, with president and lifelong progressive Randi Weingarten openly campaigning with Democratic candidates like Terry McAuliffe in Virginia. The letter highlights NewsGuard’s left-wing political leanings and its biased rating systems, which consistently rate left-leaning news websites more favorably than right-leaning news websites. Leaders from the following organizations signed onto the letter: Fight for Schools, American Federation for Children, The Claremont Institute, Parents Defending Education, Moms for Liberty, Internet Accountability Project, No Left Turn in Education, Manhattan Institute, American Principles Project, Students First Rhode Island, Bull Moose Project, Parents United Rhode Island, Edmund Burke Foundation, Yankee Institute, Awake Illinois, Conservative Partnership Institute, California Policy Center, Defense of Freedom Institute for Policy Studies, and America First Legal. “Given the rise of political intolerance within academic institutions and censorship from the tech industry, we are alarmed by this partnership and its implications for core American values in our schools,” the coalition letter states. “There are endless examples of NewsGuard ratings that have no basis in reality and disprove the claim that its ratings are impartial…It seems that this partnership is another effort to politicize our schools, censor disapproved political thought and sources of information, and silence critics of teachers’ unions. Institutionalizing the censorship of news and information sources that may provide alternative views–or even facts that cannot be found elsewhere but that appear on an unapproved news source–is an attack on the values of our Constitution and on the basic liberal values that all western societies strive to uphold.” Political contributions made by NewsGuard’s leadership and staff provide additional insights into why the AFT chose to partner with NewsGuard, and how their progressive political interests align. News reports also reveal that NewsGuard is staffed by individuals who have worked for Democrat campaigns and liberal issue advocacy organizations. “Educators should teach students to think openly and critically, challenge ideas, make their own assessments, conduct independent research, check facts, and do their own due diligence, not outsource the very essence of what it means to learn, think, and judge,” the letter continued. “As champions for accountability in technology and education, we are calling on Congress to investigate this partnership, including its origins, its intentions, its applications, and the broader issue of biased and conflicted so-called ‘anti-misinformation’ tools used in classrooms.” BACKGROUND: Washington Free Beacon: “The group's deputy general manager volunteered for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign and served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, according to the NewsGuard website. One staff analyst volunteered for Obama's 2012 campaign, and another served on a Democratic political committee in Connecticut. NewsGuard's general counsel has served on the board of the League of Conservation Voters, a Democrat-aligned environmental group. The lawyer, Cynthia Brill, has also contributed thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates. None of the NewsGuard staffers listed online have worked for Republicans…A review of political donations also suggests a liberal bias at NewsGuard. Twenty NewsGuard executives and advisers have contributed to Democratic candidates since 2015, with only six giving to Republicans, according to Federal Election Commission records. Nine gave more than $10,000 to Democratic candidates, while just three Republicans surpassed that threshold.” READ THE FULL LETTER HERE. ###

Education, Tech Policy Leaders Ask Congress To Investigate Partnership Between NewsGuard, Teachers Union National Review | Brittany Bernstein | April 21, 2022 https://www.nationalreview.com/news/education-tech-policy-leaders-ask-congress-to-investigate-partnership-between-newsguard-teachers-union/

A group of leaders from 19 education and tech policy institutions sent a letter on Thursday asking members of Congress to investigate a new partnership between the nation’s second largest teachers’ union and NewsGuard, a tool that provides “trust ratings” for news and information websites.

Under the partnership with the American Federation of Teachers, NewsGuard’s browser extension would be added to the computers of the union’s 1.7 million members, tens of millions of students they teach and their families.

AFT President Randi Weingarten has touted the deal, which was first announced in January, as a “game-changer for teachers and families drowning in an ocean of online dishonesty.” However, the group of education and tech policy leaders sent a letter to the chairs and ranking members of the Senate committees and subcommittees involved in education policy and oversight, as well as House and Senate leadership, to express concern about NewsGuard’s liberal bias.

“We write to you today deeply concerned on behalf of millions of schoolchildren and their parents regarding a new threat to the principles of free expression, open dialogue, diversity of political thought, and freedom from harassment in our classrooms,” writes the group of leaders, which includes Ian Prior from Fight for Schools, Corey A. DeAngelis from American Federation for Children, Christopher Rufo from the Manhattan Institute and Nicole Neily of Parents Defending Education.

“Given the rise of political intolerance within academic institutions and censorship from the tech industry, we are alarmed by this partnership and its implications for core American values in our schools,” the letter adds.

The group tells the lawmakers that the partnership seems to be “another effort to politicize our schools, censor disapproved political thought and sources of information, and silence critics of teachers’ unions.”

The letter describes the AFT’s Weingarten as a “liberal union activist” who has “been a leading source of misinformation and political partisanship to obscure scientific facts” during the pandemic.

The AFT fought to keep schools closed for in-person learning for months even after a vaccine became widely available.

The group argues it is “hard to imagine an organization that has less credibility or standing as a judge of journalistic truth than the AFT,” given that it donates overwhelmingly to the Democratic Party and allied causes.

Meanwhile, though NewsGuard claims its “apolitical journalistic criteria are applied fairly and accurately to all sites, regardless of the site’s topic, tone, or political leaning,” several third-party analyses indicate the tool has a liberal bias.

The letter notes that NewsGuard’s advisors, leadership and investors “heavily favor to the left,” with an analysis by the Washington Free Beacon showing NewsGuard donations favor Democrats more than three to one. Additionally, NewsGuard employs several senior staff with a history of working in Democratic politics, including its deputy general manager, who volunteered for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention.

One staff analyst volunteered for Obama’s 2012 campaign and another served on a Democratic political committee in Connecticut, while none of the NewsGuard staffers listed online have worked for Republicans, according to the Washington Free Beacon. “This bias is clearly reflected in NewsGuard ratings,” the group argues, citing a Media Research Center NewsBusters analysis that found “liberal outlets were rated 27 points higher on average than news organizations on the right.”

“There are endless examples of NewsGuard ratings that have no basis in reality and disprove the claim that its ratings are impartial,” the letter adds. It goes on to list several examples, including the rating for RawStory, an online blog known for its left-wing extremism, which NewsGuard rated a 100/100 for trustworthiness. Media Matters, another left-wing organization, received an 80/100 rating from NewsGuard.

While a Nieman Journalism Lab study rates BuzzFeed the 9th least trustworthy news website, the site received a 100/100 from NewsGuard. Even Occupy Democrats, which was the third least trustworthy according to the Nieman Lab study, receives a perfect score from NewsGuard.

However, while the New York Post published an oft-refuted but ultimately true story about Hunter Biden’s laptop in October 2020, the paper receives a 69.5/100 from NewsGuard. “If students were to debate the 2020 presidential election in a classroom where NewsGuard was used, would the news outlets that got the Hunter Biden story wrong be the only acceptable sources to cite and the news outlets that got this story right be banned?” the group asks. “This is one of the many potential dangers of relying on a partisan, biased rating system in classrooms to analyze news information sources, instead of individually analyzing the information itself.”

The group writes that while they do not dispute that fake news and misleading or discredited journalism are a problem for educators, that the “role of educators in teaching students the critical thinking skills needed to determine fact from fiction is harmed when popular sources of information are labeled as either trustworthy or untrustworthy largely based on their political leanings.”