Look Ahead: NewsGuard Creates Ratings System to See if Websites Provide Legitimate News or Misinformation

The NewsGuard ratings systems gives news sites a green rating if it’s trustworthy and a red rating if it’s not.

Is your news site healthy for news consumers? A new ratings system created by NewsGuard Technologies can help determine if it is. Based in New York City, longtime journalists Steven Brill and Gordon Crovitz founded the company and ratings system to undercut those sites that don’t hold up to journalistic integrity criteria.

Crovitz said, “The unintended consequences of the internet is that it has become very easy for people to pretend to publish journalistic content, and it’s difficult for readers to decipher what is credible and who has a hidden agenda.”

Gordon Crovitz

Sponsored by Microsoft Corp., users can download the free web extension at newsguardtech.com. It can be downloaded using Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or the Microsoft Edge browser. After the extension is downloaded, the NewsGuard icon can be seen next to news links on search engines and social media feeds showing a red or green rating. As of press time, the rating system is not available on mobile devices until digital platforms download and license the web extension, which Crovitz said will begin this fall.

With news literacy declining among readers, the rating system is transparent about how and why a news site received its rating—also called the nutrition label. The nutrition labels explain who and what’s behind what the consumer is reading and why it received its color rating, where green signifies basic standards of accuracy and accountability while red rated sites do not. Brill explained although green sites are considered trustworthy, not all sites rated green are equal.

Steven Brill

“Publishers are generally frustrated by business models; the internet created challenges nobody anticipated, specifically the role of brands,” Brill said. “It’s hard for news consumers to tell one brand from another.”

With the uncertainty of where news is coming from, advertisers have become “worried about their brands’ reputations and keep their ads off unreliable news sites,” according to Crovitz.

But now the NewsGuard ratings system can help advertisers and news consumers decide if a site is trustworthy by providing a red or green color rating.

Although the technology was initially made available to libraries, news literacy groups and schools to promote news literacy, the staff has now currently analyzed 98 percent of English news sites. Once they have rated all of them, they will move to Spanish news sites, then globally. Websites are analyzed by trained journalists and supervised by experienced editors. The resulting nutrition label and rating is reviewed by at least two senior editors.

“NewsGuard’s mission is not to make granular judgments but to establish and communicate adherence to basic standards in order to give readers information they need to assess their sources of information online,” Brill said.

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Published: November 7, 2018

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