Deception & Misdirection

The Trusted News Initiative: “Harmful Disinformation”

Media Collaboration to Protect Preferred Narratives

The Trusted News Initiative (full series)
Two Liberals | “Harmful Disinformation”
RFK Jr. Lawsuit | Climate Journalism

“Harmful Disinformation”

The Trusted News Initiative insists in one of its press releases the collaboration “does not in any way affect, the editorial stance of any partner organisation.”

The initiative describes its mission as “The leading global forum for 23 major news organisations [sic] and tech platforms to work together, at speed and in a fast-changing digital landscape, to share insights, look forward and take action against the most harmful disinformation, independent of governments.”

Now this news cabal could soon face accountability from a lawsuit led by yet another aging liberal.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s group the Children’s Health Defense alleges certain TNI partners are violating federal anti-trust law by agreeing to suppress some news.

So, is RFK Jr. pro-disinformation or something?

As Harrelson says, it’s tough to oppose the stated goals of the group. The organization asserts on its website there is a “human cost” to misinformation and that “our media partners come across it daily in the stories they cover, whether it is a threat to health caused by medical falsehoods or disruption to democracy.”

However, an overly broad definitions of “misinformation” and “disinformation” are increasingly a problem. The terms have demonstrably been used as a wide net to capture factual stories that didn’t conveniently fit the Left’s narrative. Whatever the legal merits of the litigation, Kennedy’s group seems determined to put much of the news media on trial.

“Controversial, hot-button news reporting, such as reporting that COVID originated in a lab in Wuhan, China, or that scandalous documents potentially incriminating then-candidate Joe Biden were discovered on a computer belonging to Hunter Biden attracts enormous attention and viewership,” the complaint says. “If only one TNI Legacy News Member or Big Tech Member had suppressed such reporting, while the others did not, the suppressing Member would have lost viewership to its rivals.”

Clubbing Together

Whether this rises to the legal definition of antitrust activities remains to be seen. But leaders of the Trusted News Initiative sure cast it as a collaboration of entities deciding what is and isn’t news.

“This is a moment when we need a coalition of the willing and together with partners we can create scale and some standards and systems to fight disinformation,” BBC Director General Tim Davie said.

In March, the TNI held its annual conference in both London and Delhi to bring together “leading experts in disinformation.” The Big Media–Big Tech coalition says that “media education” consists of “sharing insights and research on how audiences and users react to disinformation, thus informing best practice and supporting better digital literacy.”

During an interview, Jamie Angus, senior news controller for BBC News, explained why he thinks collaboration is more important than competing news voices:

It’s important that trusted news providers club together. Because, actually, the real rivalry now is not between, for example, the BBC and CNN globally, it’s actually between all trusted news providers and a tidal wave of unchecked incorrect or explicitly malicious nonsense that’s being piped out mainly through digital platforms specifically to destabilize regions of the world.

While he mentions CNN, the left-leaning cable news channel hasn’t joined the TNI consortium yet. Still, plenty of other organizations are clubbing together. The Associated Press, the largest news gathering organization in the world, is a partner. Thomson Reuters, another prominent wire service, is part of the collective, as is French news wire AFP. Two of the world’s most influential newspapers—The Washington Post and The Financial Times—signed up as well.

Other members are CBC/Radio-Canada, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), Information Futures Lab, The Hindu, the Africa-based Nation Media Group, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Kompas of Indonesia, Pakistan news outlet Dawn, The Indian Express, Indian network NDTV, the Australia Broadcasting Corporation, Australia’s Special Broadcasting Services (SBS0, and Japan’s NHK.

The most powerful Big Tech firms are also partners: Google/YouTube, Meta, Microsoft, and Twitter.

That’s a strong global reach, but the collaborative isn’t all powerful.

Ideology aside, some of the largest and most influential U.S. news organizations have so far declined to join. Neither CNN or MSNBC—and obviously not Fox News—are part of the coalition. The New York Times hasn’t enlisted, and perhaps not surprisingly neither has The Wall Street Journal. Although the consortium was founded by the BBC, neither of Britain’s most influential newspapers, The Times of London nor The Guardian are partners.

In the next installment, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is pursuing a longshot legal case against Trusted News Initiative partners.

Fred Lucas

Fred Lucas is the author of Abuse of Power: Inside the Three-Year Campaign to Impeach Donald Trump (Bombardier Books, 2020). He is a journalist who reports for the Daily Signal,…
+ More by Fred Lucas