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‘Pink Slime’ Websites Outnumber Daily Newspapers on the Internet

According to a report published Tuesday by an anti-disinformation group, websites posing as local newspapers funded by partisan organizations have surpassed the number of websites of independent daily papers on the internet.

According to NewsGuard TechnologiesAfter a network consisting of 167 Russian disinformation websites was discovered by, an organization that rates and evaluates the trustworthiness and reliability of news and information sites, the number of sites classified as “pink ooze” jumped from 165 to 1,265 following the discovery of John Mark Dougan. Dougan is a former Florida deputy who fled to Moscow when he was investigated for computer hacking, extortion, and other crimes.

Local News Initiative at Northwestern University estimates that there are 1,213 remaining daily newspapers in the U.S.

Report: “As traditional newspapers disappear at a rate two-and-a-half per week, pink sludge sites rush in to fill a void,” noted the report. “Millions are now left without any local coverage.”

The network associated with Dougan is the first instance known where foreign disinformation campaigns have crossed paths with pink slime websites, named for the meat-based additive that caused a stir in 2012 when it became apparent that it was added to ground beef without labeling.

“There are several definitions of pink ooze, but in essence, we are referring to sites that pretend to be other things than they really are,” explained Dan KennedyProfessor of Journalism at Northeastern University, Boston

He told TechNewsWorld that this is most common in local news. “Bad actors exploit news deserts to create digital outlets which look local, but are not,” he said. Sometimes, they’re politically motivated. But not always. Pink slime was a term used about a decade ago to describe outlets that secretly hired low-paid workers from faraway places, including the Philippines. Now, they are produced by AI.”

Blue and red slime

Chiara Vercellone, NewsGuard Senior analyst, has observed that pink slime sites can pose multiple threats to communities. She said: “They confuse readers about which sources are trusted, thus undermining credibility of real local news outlets.”

By pushing their political agendas, she added, “they are able to polarize the community’s opinions and influence the voting behavior of the reader, sometimes without them fully realizing that the source is biased.”

Vercellone cited the 2023 Courier Newsroom survey that revealed individuals who subscribed to the Courier’s newsletters for more than eight months had a greater chance of changing their mind in regards to supporting candidates. According to the same study by Courier Newsroom, recipients of its political newsletters increased support for Democratic Candidates by five percentage points.

The NewsGuard Report noted that the partisan news websites masquerading under the name of local news sources included groups from the left and right. These include Metric Media and Local Government Information Services as well as Courier Newsroom and The American Independent. NewsGuard also gave these networks low ratings for not adhering to journalistic standards.

Kennedy maintained that NewsGuard has stretched the definition of “pink slime” to include projects which produce reliable information and news, but might have some undisclosed funding from a partisan source. He said that it was a stretch to call States Newsroom, for example, a pink-slime project. “Perhaps States Newsroom could be more transparent. But that doesn’t mean they produce nothing of value.”

Partisanship is everywhere

Vincent RaynauldThe assistant professor at Emerson College’s Department of Communication Studies,, argued that pink slime sites take a partisan view of delivering news.

He told TechNewsWorld that “partisanship is an increasing component of the way people behave in both their political and personal lives.” “There are some dating websites that use your political identity as a way to introduce yourself. Pink slime takes advantage of this dynamic to make quick money.”

“Pink slime is more than just fake news — it’s the first step in fostering a mistrust in news organizations, which can foster a low-trust society,” added Vanessa WalilkoA Chicago-based independent scholar.

“Low trust societies are more vulnerable to fascist takeover”, she told TechNewsWorld.

David Inserra is a fellow at the Center for Free Expression and Technology. He believes that fake news may not be great but it’s not a serious threat to society. Cato InstituteThink tank in Washington, D.C.

He told TechNewsWorld that “there has been and there will always be bad or fake news.” “We should not forget that, while the internet enabled these pink slime web sites to be created, it also allowed countless Americans to become Citizen Journalists.”

“While some may wax nostalgia when they think about the media of 1990 we should keep it in mind that you might not have had many other options back then if the local media did not want to cover important issues to you, or did frame your views in an honest light,” he said.

“Now there are so many different ways to create, access and share useful information online from various perspectives,” he added. The challenge is to be critical and good consumers of the information that has been made available.

Slime Spurt is Expected

Mark MarinoThe numbers contained in the NewsGuard’s report were troubling to the director of the Humanities and Critical Code Studies Lab, University of Southern California. He told TechNewsWorld that the current situation is disturbing, as it does not account for what will happen once more people use ChatGPT and LLMs to build content sites.

As we approach November, expect to see another surge in the number of slime sites. Vercellone stated that “in previous election year, we have seen an increase in pink slime networks and the appearance of new sites.” NewsGuard, for example, discovered, in advance of the U.S. midterm elections of 2022, a network of five websites that were pushing a constant stream of left-leaning, partisan content to influence potential voters.

Marino predicted that the average voter will find it harder to sort things out this year and have to wade deeper into more slime.

Greg Sterling, cofounder of Near MediaThe website, which provides news, analysis, and commentary, was in agreement. TechNewsWorld quoted him as saying that the decline in local news had contributed to political polarization. “Unfortunately I’m not optimistic about the current situation.”

He continued: “The big tech platforms appear to be at best ambivalent about trying to stop disinformation, and are only willing to enforce it on occasion.” “Foreign adversaries are aware of the opportunity they have to influence U.S. elections and destabilize our country.”

He added, “I believe the onslaught is only going to get worse as November approaches.” Many Americans, who are inclined to accept conspiracies don’t seem to have the savvy to tell real news from fake.