Verizon Wireless has recently launched its own tech news site called SugarString.
From the looks of the site, it’s pretty clear that SugarString is still in its early days. The oldest story was published just 12 days ago, and its layout seems to be in beta.
With backing from the largest US telecommunications provider — its parent company, Verizon Communications, did $US120 billion in sales last year — there’s no question SugarString could one day become a major player in the tech news space. Its “About” page, in fact, shows its ambition to become the new next thing, stating, “SugarString publishes thoughtful tech-focused stories that track humanity’s climb towards the new next.”
But whatever those “thoughtful tech-focused stories” might be, one thing is clear: SugarString won’t be covering any news related to net neutrality or US surveillance issues.
According to The Daily Dot’s Patrick Howell O’Neill, SugarString writers are banned from writing about any of those topics. O’Neill says he discovered the rules last week after receiving a recruiting email from its Editor in Chief Cole Stryker. O’Neill declined the offer, as did some other reporters who spoke to him about it.
“Other reporters, who asked not to be named, have confirmed that they have received the same recruiting pitch with the same rules: No articles about surveillance or net neutrality,” O’Neill says.
It’s not too hard to figure out why Verizon is so vehemently denying any coverage of two of the most important and controversial issues in today’s tech.
Verizon is one of the strongest opponents of net neutrality, the idea of keeping the internet equal and not charging differently by the user or site. It’s also one of the companies that Edward Snowden mentioned as being part of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) government surveillance program.
To be fair, O’Neill says SugarString writers are allowed to write about non-US related surveillance issues, like the Chinese government’s spying programs. Still, it’s hard to see anyone taking SugarString seriously without balanced coverage on such a sensitive issue.
We’ve reached out to Verizon for comment and will update when we hear back.