Verizon throws new SugarString editor under the bus

Verizon Wireless phone Photo via Robert Scoble/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The company implies the editor mischaracterized its website’s mission.

Verizon says the editor of its newly launched technology news website mischaracterized the company’s prohibition on covering certain key topics.

The Daily Dot reported on Tuesday that SugarString.com, a new technology news site completely bankrolled by Verizon subsidiary Verizon Wireless, forbids its reporters from writing about U.S government surveillance or net neutrality—two topics that Verizon is deeply tangled up in. 

SugarString’s blanket ban on American spying and net neutrality—the principle that all Internet data should be treated equally by Internet service providers, which Verizon has challenged in court—call into question the publication’s ability to honestly cover technology.

In an effort to recruit editors and reporters, SugarString editor Cole Stryker sent out emails to multiple journalists, including me, explaining the limits on the website’s reporting. Stryker’s emails explicitly state that “two verboten topics” are “spying and net neutrality.”

One day later, Verizon has finally responded to our report by placing the blame squarely on its new editor in a comment provided to Ars Technica:

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

The company did not clarify the details of “its mission.” Neither Stryker nor Verizon have returned our multiple requests for comment.

SugarString will likely have a difficult time covering “all topics” about technology considering Verizon’s substantial role in National Security Agency (NSA) spying and their position as a vocal opponent on net neutrality.

The Guardian revealed in June of last year that Verizon shared the call records data of all of its customers with the NSA, according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden. And in January, Verizon successfully challenged the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Open Internet Order, which imposed net neutrality regulations on broadband providers.

Photo via Robert Scoble/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Patrick Howell O'Neill

Patrick Howell O'Neill

Patrick Howell O'Neill is a notable cybersecurity reporter whose work has focused on the dark net, national security, and law enforcement. A former senior writer at the Daily Dot, O'Neill joined CyberScoop in October 2016. I am a cybersecurity journalist at CyberScoop. I cover the security industry, national security and law enforcement.