Is Microsoft hopping on the censoring political speech bandwagon?

This Breitbart article makes it appear that Microsoft is beginning the process of censoring political speech.

Without consulting with its users, Microsoft has installed an establishment media browser extension, purportedly designed to rate the accuracy of news websites, as a default extension on mobile versions of its Edge browser. In practice, it creates a news blacklist by warning users away from sites including Breitbart News, The Drudge Report, and the Daily Mail.

The browser extension, called “Newsguard,” presents users with a red warning label if they navigate to a website that it judges to be unreliable. A “green” rating is given to websites that NewsGuard considers trustworthy.

A number of pro-Trump websites, including Breitbart News, are given a “red” rating by the extension.

The Breitbart article makes it clear Newsgaurd is not accurate in its labeling of fake news sites.

Many of the websites that recently fed the fake news feeding frenzy against students of Covington Catholic high school in Kentucky, who were falsely accused of taunting a left-wing Native American agitator, are also given a “green” rating. These include CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. Also “green” — Media Matters, the Clintonite Democrat website that regularly publishes hit-jobs against conservative media publications and personalities.

Newsgaurd can claim to be nonpartisan. Their motivation is not quite as cut and dry as those that censor based on political party affiliation or censor just those on one side of the political spectrum.

Some left-wing sources are given “red” ratings by Newsguard. However, they tend to be on the anti-establishment side of Democratic politics: ShareBlue and the Daily Kos, for example, both have “red” ratings. Salon and the Huffington Post, however, do not.

It shouldn’t be surprising that Newsguard has a bias against independent and anti-establishment media though: the team behind the browser extension include top neocons and members of America’s foreign policy establishment, including Trump-hating former CIA director Michael Hayden, and former members of the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations.

Microsoft may not be actively engaging in censoring political speech right now, however, this Breitbart article makes it clear Newsgaurd does engage in that activity.

NewsGuard, the news-filtering browser extension recently partnered with Microsoft and run by neoconservatives, Obama-Clinton alumni, and other assorted Trump haters, has advised advertisers to withdraw their business from websites on its blacklist of “unreliable” news websites — a list that includes Breitbart News, The Drudge Report, and the Daily Mail…The effect isn’t merely to silence pro-Trump media. It also ensures advertisers don’t market their products to Trump voters, causing them to rely less and less on consumers in the heartland, and more on progressive consumers who read establishment news sources.

By licensing the NewsGuard ratings, advertisers limit their advertising, including programmatic advertising, to sites that meet the NewsGuard criteria” explains the neocon extension’s official website “Advertisers use this data and related information about sites to craft efficient—and safe—ad campaigns.” Programmatic advertising is essentially the use of automation to purchase ads, as opposed to manual selection and placement of ads by humans.

The beltway establishment figures who started NewsGuard claim to be non-partisan. But the logic of their system leads towards the demonetization of pro-Trump and populist conservative media, as well as the few anti-establishment sites of the left that are also on the extension’s blacklist, like the Daily Kos.

Newsgaurd sees themselves as the good guys, according to their website

NewsGuard uses journalism to fight false news, misinformation, and disinformation. Our trained analysts, who are experienced journalists, research online news brands to help readers and viewers know which ones are trying to do legitimate journalism—and which are not.

This article from the Verge shares my deeply rooted concerns that Microsoft will soon use its new partnership with Newsgaurd to actively engage in censoring political speech.

Microsoft has started warning users of its Edge mobile browser about untrustworthy news sites. The software giant has partnered with NewsGuard to provide warnings in its Edge browser for iOS and Android, and this functionality has been added this week as an optional setting. NewsGuard was founded by journalists Steven Brill and Gordon Crovitz, and rates sites based on a variety of criteria including their use of deceptive headlines, whether they repeatedly publish false content, and transparency regarding ownership and financing.

Microsoft first started offering an optional NewsGuard browser extension for Edge on the desktop version of Windows 10 last year, but the move to build this directly into the mobile version suggests the company may be looking to make this a core part of Edge in the future. The Guardian reports that Edge mobile is now warning users that the Daily Mail’s website, Mail Online, “generally fails to maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability.”

Incrementalism is an all too common tactic used by those on the political left and the establishment. I believe what Microsoft has done so far is just the first step towards censoring political speech.