1.How does NewsGuard decide what sites to rate, and how broad is its coverage?
NewsGuard rates the
2,300 websites responsible for approximately 96% of all the news and
information consumed and shared online in the U.S. NewsGuard derives this list
of sites from data services that track online activity.
We supplement that
list of those in the top 96% with some sites that are well known and
influential but that might not have that enough of an audience to be in the top
96%. Although we rate all sites in the top 96% even if they might not want to
be rated, we also gladly respond to requests from smaller sites or newly
launched sites that want to be rated. Finally, our Rapid Response Team (see
below) supplements all of this with coverage of suddenly trending news from websites
that we have not yet rated because they have only suddenly published stories
that have become popular. In many cases, these websites are created in
order to publish misinformation or disinformation.
Across the UK, France,
Germany, and Italy, NewsGuard has already rated approximately 700 sites
responsible for 90% of the news and information consumed and shared online in
2. How often does NewsGuard update its ratings and Labels, and how does NewsGuard handle sites that are suddenly trending with questionable reports that it has not yet rated?
As a matter of practice NewsGuard aims to review and refresh all
sites every three months. However, more frequent updates will occur if circumstances
warrant it—such as a change in ownership, a change in practices, or if the site
wins an award or becomes embroiled in a controversy. Moreover, NewsGuard has a Rapid
Response Team on call on a 24-hour basis. It receives alerts from a software
system NewsGuard has created that informs the team about a site that seems
about to trend online that NewsGuard has not yet reviewed (perhaps because it
is a false news site that went up in Russia during the night). NewsGuard will
review and rate that site within hours, so that it has a NewsGuard Red or Green
and a Nutrition Label before it goes viral.
When there are stories trending in this way, it often turns out
that these are websites that were just launched in order to spread
misinformation or disinformation. We have found that this is especially true in
the run-up to elections, when false stories can be used to undermine electoral
integrity. We accelerated our launch in Europe so that
our ratings and write ups would be available in key markets in advance of the
European Parliament elections in May.
3. Is NewsGuard just another group of journalists trying to attack and stifle conservative media? Or left-wing media? Or protect established media against new competitors?
NewsGuard operates with full transparency and
disclosure, with an identical approach to all news websites. We use the same
nine criteria for rating all news websites. These criteria are all established
basic principles of reliable journalism, whether for news-based sites or for
opinion-based sites. All criteria are applied equally to all publishers
regardless of political orientation, if any, and in the same way for an
established newspaper or broadcaster as for a new digital website or popular
blogger. In addition, if our reporting determines that a site fails any one of
the nine criteria, our analysts contact the site for comment, whereupon we
quote publishers in the write-up explaining their practice and making their
point of view known – or we change our minds (before publishing) because they
give us information that we might have missed.
NewsGuard has been credited as apolitical and
fair in news reports by a variety of news organizations of all points of view.
Our goal is to teach news literacy–and we hope all websites
will earn green ratings and be generally reliable to consumers. That is why
librarians across the U.S. began partnering with us as soon as we launched in
the U.S. last year, and the same thing is happening now that we have launched in
the UK, Germany, France and Italy. Librarians have been in the vanguard of
addressing news literacy. Those that already know about NewsGuard view it as a
practical tool that they can provide their patrons who use library computers in
order to supplement the work that librarians have been doing since the
invention of libraries: give readers the tools they need to make informed
4. Why should anyone trust NewsGuard?
the leadership and staff of NewsGuard use apolitical, basic criteria of
journalistic practice for the ratings and because they are a group of trained
journalists who have spent their careers dedicated to the profession. Steven Brill is one of America’s most
respected magazine writers and non-fiction book authors. Gordon Crovitz was a
highly regarded columnist for the Wall Street Journal editorial page—and The
Wall Street Journal’s publisher. Our senior advisors in each country have
similar backgrounds, such as our UK senior advisor who was a journalist at the
BBC for 30 years, including as global news editor, and our Italian senior
advisor who spent 30 years at ANSA (the Italian version of the AP), including
as editor in chief. They and the journalists they have recruited care deeply
about reliable journalism’s pivotal role in democracy.
These experienced journalists come from
diverse backgrounds and have no political axes to grind. In
fact, you can see the credentials and backgrounds of everyone responsiblefor
every NewsGuard reliability rating and Nutrition Label that you read.
has an ethics and conflicts of interest policy that every analyst and editor has to agree to. (See
is totally transparent about how all decisions are made. It discloses and explains in detail the
nine criteria NewsGuard examines in order to rate each news site on its
journalistic practices. The Nutrition Label write-ups explain what’s behind each
decision. NewsGuard is not a black box algorithm.
makes concerted attempts to get comment from every website’s editor or manager before NewsGuard
writes anything negative about the site, and always include the comments in the
Nutrition Labels (or make changes after weighing the comment and realizing NewsGuard’s
initial conclusion was wrong). Algorithms don’t call for comment.
posts any complaints from website proprietors aboutanything that is written about them. And
NewsGuard’s leaders answer them publicly – and when warranted will make
corrections, publicly, after they consider the complaint.
accepts no fees from the news websites it rates. (NewsGuard’s revenue comes from the fees that technology
companies such as access providers, platforms and search engines pay for
licensing ratings. Many websites cite their green rating in their About
sections and run advertising explaining their NewsGuard ratings.
does not collect any personal information of any kind from those who download and use the NewsGuard
browser plug-ins. None.
more information to people about the news sources they encounter online is
NewsGuard’s only business. The
success of this venture depends entirely on being trustworthy and
5. Isn’t restricting speech bad?
Yes it is! And that’s
the best thing about NewsGuard. It presents an alternative to the binary choice
of blocking people from reading/seeing something or letting the status quo
prevail – in which misinformation spreads indiscriminately and can look like
real information. NewsGuard offers a way to block nothing. Instead, NewsGuard
provides solid information about the thousands of news sources available
One of the ideas
underlying democracies across the world is that a free press is required for an
informed citizenry. Under this approach, it’s understood that citizens need
reliable information on which to base their views and ultimately their civic
activities, including voting. So, the approach of providing more information
about sources of news online is in a long democratic tradition of giving people
more information so that they can make their own informed judgments.
In fact, that’s why
librarians partner with NewsGuard. Librarians have always fought for the right
of people to have access to everything at the same time that they have rightly
seen their role as giving their library patrons information about what’s on
6. NewsGuard is a for-profit business. Why?
When we set out to rate all the news and information
websites that account for 96%-plus of online engagement in every country in
which we operate, we realized we would have to build a large, well-funded
enterprise. We have hired some 50 journalists to serve as our analysts, for
example. To support this work on a sustainable basis, we determined that we
could do this best as a for-profit business. So we’re also asking some of the
largest companies in the world — internet access providers, social media and
search companies — to work with us to bring information to their users. They should
want to know that we will be a good and sustainable business partner.
7. Why do you have an advisory board?
We saw early on that there are important national
security issues involved with addressing false news, misinformation, propaganda
and disinformation, so we wanted advice on national security ramifications. In
addition, we wanted advice on communicating journalistic practices to Silicon
Valley companies, so we are well represented in this area as well. These
advisors include former CIA and NSA Director Gen. Michael Hayden; Anders Fogh
Rasmussen, who is former prime minister of Denmark and former Secretary General
of NATO and is the founder of the Alliance of Democracies Foundation; and Jimmy
Wales, who is a co-founder of Wikipedia.
8. Where do you expect to get the revenue you need?
We’re in licensing discussions with access companies such as
internet providers and mobile phone companies and with the digital platform
companies, including the social media and other search companies, and look
forward to working with them all to make NewsGuard ratings and reviews
ubiquitous on the internet. We hope NewsGuard ratings and reviews will be
integrated into all social media news feeds and search results. Microsoft has
licensed NewsGuard, including for its Edge Mobile browser.
9. Why is trust so important?
Gallup conducted independent research
in June, 2018, entitled, “Assessing the Effect of News Source Ratings on News
Content.” This used the NewsGuard Red and Green ratings and write-ups as the
model for the research. The results were highly encouraging, including on the
topic trust. Respondents said they would trust ratings and reviews if they were
done by “experienced journalists with diverse backgrounds.” The research found
that even the most partisan people would trust Red-rated sites less and
Green-rated sites more and be less likely to share or like news from generally
Editorial Employee Statement of Understanding and Commitment
By signing below, I confirm my understanding and commitment to
the following policies and procedures of NewsGuard Technologies, Inc. (the “Company”).
I understand that my identity and biographical information about
me may be made publicly available when the editorial material on which I am
working is published by the Company.
I will supply an accurate and complete biography to facilitate
that process and to further NewsGuard’s goals of transparency.
I represent and warrant that I will not have any conflicts of
interest associated with the subject of the editorial material that I review,
edit, or fact check, including having been employed or retained for freelance
assignments or turned down for employment or freelance assignments by the
subject of the material, or that if I do have such conflicts I will disclose
them to my supervisor prior to my work on that material, so that the Company,
in its sole discretion, can reassign me or allow me to proceed with the work
and disclose the conflict when the material is published.
represent and warrant that no members of my immediate family have any such
conflicts that have not been disclosed to my supervisor so that the Company can
make a determination, in its sole discretion, about whether to reassign me or
allow me to proceed with the work and disclose the conflict when the material