During the pandemic, Newsweek repeatedly published “sponsored” articles that promoted and “back[ed]” a type of colloidal silver by falsely claiming it can prevent or treat COVID-19. The Newsweek sponsored content — which has since been removed following a Media Matters inquiry — targeted Black people, young people, and the elderly, and made false statements such as claiming the silver could “lower the odds of contracting COVID-19,” “spare” people from “infection,” and “aid with recovery.”
Newsweek apparently endorsed the colloidal silver product, as the sponsored content division — called Newsweek Amplify — states that it recommends only “products we back.” The Food and Drug Administration has stated that “colloidal silver is not safe or effective for treating any disease or condition,” and the federal government has gone after companies marketing colloidal silver “with claims to prevent, treat, mitigate, diagnose or cure” COVID-19.
In a statement to Media Matters, a Newsweek spokesperson said: “Newsweek Amplify is a sponsored content and affiliate marketing product run by an outsourced team of salespeople and content creators. Prior to May 2021, Amplify content was not supervised by a Newsweek editor. The articles you refer to were published well before that date; they did not meet Newsweek’s editorial standards and have now been deleted.”
Newsweek is an independent company owned by Johnathan Davis and Dev Pragad. In recent years, the publication has experienced numerous problems and been criticized by observers for “being used to launder right-wing ideas and conspiracy theories” and “selling off its own legacy while hoping that readers won’t notice.”
The company’s advertising division includes Newsweek Amplify. A description on Newsweek’s website states that it is “the company’s independent business unit” and “empower[s] digital brands with comprehensive content marketing and advertising strategies.” Newsweek Amplify articles are posted on Newsweek’s domain name (Newsweek.com/amplify) and, as it suggests in marketing materials, Amplify leverages the outlet’s search engine ranking to reach audiences.
During the pandemic, this Newsweek section has frequently promoted products from Cymbiotika, a San Diego-based company that sells various supplements like Cymbiotika’s Coated Silver. The company claimed in a February 26, 2020, press release that the product contains “the highest concentration of pure colloidal silver in the world” and provides “the ultimate immune defense.”
Media Matters noted last year that Cymbiotika promoted its silver product with the hashtag “coronavirus” in a since-removed Facebook post and claimed that it is a “potent mineral antibiotic that neutralizes viruses” and a “weapon for your immune system.”
Newsweek had posted numerous “sponsored” articles on its website with the Newsweek Amplify byline promoting Cymbiotika products. A disclaimer on those stories stated: “We may earn a commission from links on this page, but we only recommend products we back. Newsweek AMPLIFY participates in various affiliate marketing programs, which means we may get paid commissions on editorially chosen products purchased through our links to retailer sites.”
The Newsweek Amplify stories repeatedly made the false claim that Cymbiotika Coated Silver can prevent or treat COVID-19.
The following are six examples that were posted Newsweek’s website but were removed following an inquiry from Media Matters.
Newsweek Amplify claimed that “Black Americans Can Help Protect Themselves from COVID-19” and “lower the odds of contracting COVID-19” by using Cymbiotika’s Coated Silver
Newsweek Amplify posted an October 1 piece headlined “Are Black Americans at Higher Risk of Contracting COVID-19?” In a section titled “How Black Americans Can Help Protect Themselves from COVID-19,” Newsweek Amplify recommended Cymbiotika Coated Silver, writing: “Lower the odds of contracting COVID-19. Check out Cymbiotika today.” The following is a screenshot from that “sponsored article”: