NewsGuard is a browser extension created by NewsGuard Technologies. It labels news sources with either a green or red icon, indicating its general trustworthiness and whether it has a history of running stories labeled as fake news. Supported browsers include Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Firefox, and Safari. It is included by default in the mobile version of Edge, though users must enable it.
NewsGuard Technologies was founded in 2018 by Steven Brill and L. Gordon Crovitz, who serve as co-CEOs. Investors include the Knight Foundation and Publicis. The NewsGuard extension is installed in browsers and warns users when they view content from what it considers fake news websites. Journalists employed by NewsGuard Technologies score news sites on their reliability and general trustworthiness. The analysis is designed to be transparent and includes the name of the staffer who analyzed the site. Sites that score at least 60 out of 100 points based on nine criteria display a green icon next to their name, and ones that score lower get a red. Users can optionally read more information, including how the sites fared in each criterion. The extension can also highlight potential conflicts of interest, such as websites that do not disclose that they are financed by lobbying groups.
NewsGuard determines a website's overall credibility score based on a number of criteria. These include:
- The frequency of publication of inaccurate information
- The extent of sourcing and original reporting of information
- The degree of demarcation between news and opinion journalism
- The accuracy of headlines, including the use of clickbait headlines
- The degree of disclosure of the website's ownership, as well as the political positions of the owners
Brill positions the extension as an alternative to government regulation and automated algorithms, such as those used by Facebook. For revenue, NewsGuard Technologies licenses their ratings. Clients include technology companies and the advertising industry, who view the ratings as a way to protect clients against advertising on sites that could harm their brand. In January 2019, the extension was integrated into the mobile version of Microsoft Edge, though users must enable it. Sites that had previously ignored the extension, such as MailOnline, objected to being listed as unreliable. The decision to list MailOnline as unreliable was reversed, and NewsGuard admitted they were wrong on some counts. Sites labeled as unreliable include InfoWars, the Daily Kos, Sputnik, RT, and WikiLeaks. NewsGuard has been criticized by Breitbart News as "the establishment media's latest effort to blacklist alternative media sites". NewsGuard attempts to work with sites they label as unreliable to advise them on how to come into compliance with their criteria.
As of January 2019, Brill says the extension includes ratings for the 2000 most popular American news sites. Ratings for more British sites are expected in April 2019. NewsGuard expanded its coverage to news in European languages such as French and German ahead of the 2019 European Parliament election.
In April 2019, the co-founders of NewsGuard announced that they had entered talks with British internet service providers to incorporate their credibility scoring system into consumer internet packages. Under the plans, a user would see a warning message before visiting a misleading site without needing to have the NewsGuard extension installed. Users would also have the ability to disable the feature.
In January 2020, NewsGuard began notifying users that it would become a paid, member-supported browser extension in early 2020, while remaining free for libraries and schools. Early adopters would get a 33% discount on the price, paying $1.95/month (USD) or £1.95/month (UK). They plan to roll out new premium features, including a reliability score, and offer new mobile apps for Android and iOS. They reported ratings of "3,800 websites that account for 95% of engagement with news in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Italy."
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