Deception & Misdirection
The Trusted News Initiative: Two Liberals
Media Collaboration to Protect Preferred Narratives
Summary: The Trusted News Initiative, a largely ignored coalition of media outlets and Big Tech, began as an initiative of the BBC to drown out the misinformation with factual journalism” ahead of the 2020 election. But instead of protecting the public from misinformation, it has spiked certain accurate news stories that didn’t comfortably fit into a preferred narrative. Members of TNI are being sued for violations of antitrust laws in its efforts to control reporting.
In July, a federal judge delivered a blow to collusion between social media companies and the government that was operating in the shadows. What remains to be seen is whether a more transparent cabal of legacy media and Big Tech will face accountability.
The Trusted News Initiative—founded by the British Broadcasting Corporation in 2019 and joined by The Washington Post, the Associated Press, and Reuters as well as Google, Meta (Facebook), Twitter, and other giant news and social media outlets—asserts that it provides “fast alert against the most harmful disinformation.”
Republican attorneys general from Missouri and Louisiana were the plaintiffs in the case of the social media companies colluding with the federal government. And it has typically been the Right in recent years that has sounded the alarm about the power of Big Tech. For longer than that, conservatives have been quick to criticize the liberal media.
The Trusted News Initiative is present online, held its annual conference in March in Delhi and London, and doesn’t seem to aim for secrecy. Nevertheless, strangely, it doesn’t seem to be receiving much attention, not from media watchdogs, media writers, or anyone else.
It was two aging liberals who helped cast the spotlight on the most recent news cabal. Woody Harrelson expressed concern during a September 2022 interview with host Bill Maher. “I’m worried about the way media is trending. You know about the Trusted News Initiative, right?” he asked Maher, who said it sounds familiar.
“The Trusted News Initiative was begun before the last election because the whole idea was to stop subversion by foreign powers. . . . Who can say it’s a bad thing? It’s stopping Russia from interfering. This is great,” Harrelson continued. “And it’s every big—it’s Twitter, it’s everyone. So, what they did was, they made sure that nothing entered mainstream media that could be heard by the masses that would affect the election. After the election, they stayed together. They didn’t just stop after the election after everything went smoothly.”
“Then COVID,” Maher said.
“They focused on anything that suggested vaccine hesitancy,” Harrelson said. “They focused on anything that had to do with finding anything to do adversely with 5G. They focused on anything that went against the narrative of COVID and how it’s caused.”
Elections were key to the founding of the collaboration. The Trusted News Initiative claimed it tackled disinformation during Britain’s 2019 general elections and the 2020 Taiwan election. So the organization bound onto the scene of the 2020 U.S. election, determined to fire off rapid response warnings of fake news, Variety reported.
The coalition casts its job in the loftiest of terms of preserving democracy. “Disinformation is one of today’s great harms. It can undermine democracy, create division, and distort public debate. Tackling it is a pressing priority,” Tony Hall, director-general of the BBC, said. “That’s why it is so vital that TNI is successful.”
This would be done by reviewing the content, “while publishers ensure they don’t unwittingly republish dangerous falsehoods,” according to Variety. The TNI partners in the news and social media industry announced they will alert each other of what they deem “disinformation” that poses an apparent threat to democracy and the integrity of the election.
“The partnership focuses on moments of potential jeopardy, that could threaten life or the integrity of democracy, particularly during elections,” the TNI website says. “Partners alert each other to high-risk disinformation so that content can be reviewed promptly by platforms, whilst publishers ensure they don’t unwittingly share dangerous falsehoods.”
The BBC started the initiative to “drown out the misinformation with factual journalism” ahead of the 2020 election season. Then along the way, the COVID-19 pandemic came. Thus, the TNI played a key role in shaping what was deemed the acceptable narrative for reporting on both. The group also established a similar shared alert system to help fight what it considered COVID-19 misinformation, reported TVB Europe.
In the next installment, 23 major news organizations and four major tech companies are partners of the Trusted News Initiative.