NewsGuard uses journalism to fight false news, misinformation, and disinformation. Their trained analysts, who are experienced journalists, research online news brands to help readers and viewers know which ones are trying to do legitimate journalism—and which are not.
When did NewsGuard launch and why?
NewsGuard was launched in March 2018 by veteran journalists Steve Brill and Gordon Crovitz to tackle misinformation online. As tech companies and platforms relied on algorithms and artificial intelligence to try to address the problem, the two saw the need for human intelligence to be part of the solution. NewsGuard employs experienced journalists who independently review the top news and information websites using nine criteria for credibility and transparency. NewsGuard aims to rate the websites that account for 98% of all online engagement in the U.S. by the midterm elections in November.
What does NewsGuard do? What are its main goals? Main projects?
NewsGuard uses journalism to fight false news, misinformation, and disinformation. Its trained analysts, who are experienced journalists, research online news brands to help readers and viewers know which ones are trying to do legitimate journalism—and which are not. Its first product, a browser extension free to consumers, allows users to learn about the credibility and transparency of the websites they encounter in their social media feeds or search results. Users see a red or green icon next to headlines, and can mouse over to learn how the site meets NewsGuard’s standards. Each site has a “Nutrition Label” that carefully explains the site’s ownership and financing, content credibility, transparency, and history. These ratings and labels are regularly updated, and NewsGuard clearly lists the names and email addresses of the writers and editors who review each site.
Since launching its extension, NewsGuard has been partnering with public libraries, K-12 schools, universities, and other education organizations to promote news and media literacy to users of all ages and backgrounds. The extension is a research and news literacy tool that helps students to better understand both the sources they reference in essays and projects, and the online information they encounter outside of the classroom.
What makes NewsGuard stand out? What would you say is the most unique thing about NewsGuard?
NewsGuard is not an algorithm. It relies on human beings with a journalistic background to make judgments about the credibility and transparency of websites, based on nine widely-accepted metrics designed to minimize human bias and subjectivity. Each Nutrition Label provides a thorough explanation of how NewsGuard determined the site’s rating, and ratings are updated whenever sites change their practices, for better or for worse. NewsGuard also employs a SWAT-team—a group of journalists who keep an eye on trending news stories and viral websites to issue ratings and labels in real time. Each site is reviewed by at least three NewsGuard analysts and editors, but controversial or “borderline” sites are discussed by the full staff during our daily team-wide meeting. And if we ever makes a negative assessment or decides that a website fails any of its criteria, NewsGuard reaches out to the site for comment.
Hover your mouse over each icon to see a brief description of the website and why it received its rating:
Above all, what really separates NewsGuard from its competitors is that it’s not just an alternative to algorithms — it’s an alternative to censorship. Rather than removing websites from a person’s feed or search results, NewsGuard’s browser extension provides information about whether the content it publishes is credible by basic journalistic standards. NewsGuard equips people with what they need to know about the news they encounter online, and lets them decide for themselves whether to keep reading.
What are recent projects or new resources that NewsGuard would like to share with other NAMLE members?
NewsGuard browser extension is a free tool that individuals, schools, and libraries can install on their computer to help them know their news and become smarter media consumers. The extension is currently available for Chrome, Edge, and Firefox, with Safari coming soon. NewsGuard has developed a lesson plan to guide any middle school, high school, or university instructor when using the extension as part of a media literacy curriculum. We have also created materials for libraries to distribute to their patrons instructing them on how to use the NewsGuard extension they might see on the browser they use. Educators and librarians can reach out to NewsGuard if they are interested in accessing these free materials.
What are the connections between your work and media literacy?
NewsGuard assesses each website using nine criteria for evaluating journalistic integrity. Our criteria look at everything from how much a site tells users about those producing and funding its content, to whether a site corrects stories when it makes mistakes. These criteria enable us to determine our ratings of sites, but they also show our users that they can apply the same criteria to evaluate any news source they encounter outside of the NewsGuard browser extension. By reading our Nutrition Labels and checklists, users begin to understand why they can generally trust the content on a green site, and why they should think twice before reading or sharing an article on a red site. Put simply, our reviews help readers know their news.
Why is media literacy important to you?
Distrust in the media is at a low. As new websites crop up every day, it becomes increasingly difficult for people to tell which sites are trying to deceive them, and which are trying to get it right. NewsGuard wants to help people make that distinction, so that their distrust in a few sites doesn’t translate to a distrust in the media industry in general.