NewsGuard to fight fake news by "traffic light" labeling the trustworthiness of news sites

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Since the end of January, Microsoft’s mobile Edge flags links to American news sites by a “traffic light” rating label of trustworthiness. The label appears as part of search engine results page or a social media feed, unless the user deactivates this function. Plug-ins for other browsers are available.

The provider, the American startup NewsGuard Technologies, endeavours to achieve a wide distribution within the educational sector at the national and international level. Thus he aimes at public library systems as well as middle schools, high schools, universities, and educational organizations. Currently operating in the United States, an expansion to Europe has been brought forward. In an interview by Gizmodo, NewsGuard said “We’re in discussions with all of the major tech and platform companies about ways to integrate NewsGuard into their search results, social media news feeds, and browsers.” Whether it will be default shall be up to the individual partner.

In Europe, co-CEO Steven Brill gave a presentation at the EU conference “Countering online disinformation“, according to which NewsGuard meanwhile is also talking to library systems in Europe. By the end of April, the ratings shall also be available for the UK, Italy, France and Germany.

According to its’ homepage, the overall purpose of NewsGuard is to “fight false news, misinformation, and disinformation”. One might spontaniously associate fact checking as the means for reaching this goal. NewsGuard however is not concerned about the single news article but it evaluates the trustworthiness of the news site as a whole. Thus, the label does not provide a statement about the news article which it is actually marking.

NewsGuard points out that it is working with a “team of trained journalists and experienced editors”, “rating and reviewing thousands of news and information websites based on nine journalistic criteria“.

As Reuters reports, NewsGuard speaks of about 2.200 of the 7.500 planned news sites which have been evaluated by 35 employed journalists. Additionally, NewsGuard offers teaching material within the Microsoft sponsored “News Literacy Partnership Program” and participates in webinars as in Pennsylvania.

The media response is varying. Whereas the mainstream is reporting neutrally or positively, alternative media are strongly critical. The headline of NewsGuard launching “War on Alternative Media” is circulating. Whitney Webb, MintPress News, takes a look at the Advisory Board and claims by “linking up with former CIA and NSA directors, Silicon Valley Giants, and massive PR firms working for some of the most controversial governments and corporations in the world, NewsGuard has betrayed the fact that it is not actually seeking to ‘restore trust and accountability’ in journalism”.

Report (to be drafted)

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Some possible issues – add yours:

Who initiated NG, what was the impetus?

How is NG being financed?

Which European Library Systems have been contacted?

Which are the rating criteria? Are there comparable criteria catalogues by other institutions?

Do the criteria, do the site descriptions meet crucial issues in respect of fake news?

Is NG biased? What about rating pluralism within search result pages?

How can false news be prevented by this means? What does NewsGuard itself say to this issue?

What are the libraries saying? Which libraries participate, which refuse to?

What are the schools saying? Which schools participate, which refuse to?


WORKPLACE for developing the story:

Sources for further writing or reading

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Original sources

Microsoft announcing a new partnership with NewsGuard Technologies…/defending-against-disinformation-in-partnership-with-newsguard/

NewsGuard’s Online Source Rating Tool: User Experience. A Gallup study supported by the Knight Foundation and NewsGuard…/Gallup-NewsGuards-Online-Source-Rating-Tool-User-Experience-1.pdf

National Media Sources

Don’t trust Daily Mail website, Microsoft browser warns users

Jason Kucsma, Toledo Public Library

Eoin O’Carroll: Can old-fashioned journalism combat fake news?

Lorenzo Arvanitis: Yale alums combat “fake news” with startup

Chris Fox: Mail Online web browser warning reversed

Whitney Webb: Newsguard Turns to EU to Push Controversial Ratings System on Tech Companies, Smears MintPress as “Secretly Supported” by Russia

NewsGuard Wants to Fight Fake News With Humans, Not Algorithms

International Media Sources

Businsess Insider India: Ratings of 29 favourate news sites: screenshots….cms

Other Sources

American Library Association (ALA): Labeling and rating systems. An interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights

Trevor Timm: Wall Street Journal Columnist Repeatedly Gets His Facts Wrong About NSA Surveillance. In: EFF. Concerns L. Gordon Crovitz, NewsGuard, Co-CEO…/wall-street-journal-columnist-gordon-crovitz-repeatedly-gets-his-facts-wrong-about

Jennifer Dixey, Librarian

Joshua Benton: NewsGuard considers Fox News a healthy part of your news diet
Some would agree! Others would disagree! – (Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard)

Issues to be searched for

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  • Is there a list of the NewsGuard rated news sites?
  • The the internal search engines of the websites of:
    White House, U.S. Congress, German government, Bundestag, EU, EU Parliament
    yielded no results for “newsguard” – seemingly it was no topic? (February 10, 2019)
  • German Parliamentary Documentation, also: no results for “newsguard” (February 10, 2019)

Issues to be fact checked

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