Verizon news site banned from covering spying, ‘fast lanes’

A technology news website backed by Verizon forbids its reporters from writing about U.S. surveillance or net neutrality, according to reports this week. 

The newly launched Sugarstring, which has been posting stories for the past few months, is attempting to recruit technology reporters and editors. But one stipulation is reporters cannot write about two major issues in which Verizon has a stake, according to the Daily Dot

The Daily Dot reported that Sugarstring’s new editor-in-chief, Cole Stryker, sent recruiting emails to some reporters outlining the ground rules.

Later Wednesday, A spokeswoman for Verizon said the site is open to all topics “that fit its mission.”

“SugarString is a pilot project from Verizon Wireless’ marketing group, designed to address tech trends, especially those of interest to our customers,” Verizon spokeswoman Debi Lewis said in a statement. “Unlike the characterization by its new editor, SugarString is open to all topics that fit its mission and elevate the conversation around technology.”

The website says it “publishes thoughtful tech-focused stories that track humanity’s climb towards the new next.” The site also says it is “presented by Verizon” and that “these articles were written by authors contracted by Verizon Wireless. The views expressed on Sugarstring may not necessarily reflect those of Verizon Wireless.”

Verizon’s Twitter account occasionally links to the news site’s stories, including one Wednesday about a story about GPS keeping domestic violence victims safe. 

Verizon has been a key company in both net neutrality and U.S. surveillance news in the last year. 

The first revelations about secret National Security Agency surveillance programs leaked by Edward Snowden dealt with a court order requiring Verizon to regularly hand over telephone metadata records of millions of its customers. 

Verizon was also the lead plaintiff in a case in which an appeals court in January struck down the Obama administration’s net neutrality rules, which prevented broadband service providers from slowing or blocking access to any websites. 

The company has opposed net neutrality rules, saying they could stifle innovation and consumer choice. The Federal Communications Commission is currently rewriting the rules in an attempt to withstand future court challenges. 

Verizon did not respond to a request for comment. Attempts to contact Sugarstring’s editor-in-chief were also unsuccessful.

—Updated 2:26 p.m.

Tags Net neutrality NSA surveillance programs Verizon

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