A Statement from NewsGuard about COVID-19

NewsGuard has temporarily removed the paywall from its browser extension in order to make its anti-misinformation tool free to help address the urgent COVID-19 “infodemic.”

The NewsGuard browser extension, which costs $2.95/month, is now free from March 24 for all users until July 1. The extension flags websites that have published COVID-19 hoaxes and other dangerous misinformation.

To download NewsGuard’s browser extension for free during the COVID-19 crisis, click here.

NewsGuard deploys journalists to issue trust ratings for thousands of news and information websites across the U.S. and Europe. After consultation with, and with the support of librarians whose patrons already enjoy free use of NewsGuard, government agencies, and NGOs in the U.S. and in Europe, we have decided to remove the paywall on our popular browser extension to help combat the misinformation about COVID-19 that is proliferating around the world.

The browser extension provides detailed green or red ratings and “Nutrition Labels” for more than 4,000 news and information sites representing 95% of news engagement online and flags with red ratings those that publish false or unreliable information. These include hundreds of sites that promote false and dangerous treatments for illnesses including COVID-19. NewsGuard is working with government agencies, public libraries, digital platforms, and internet service providers to alert their users that this tool is available free to users in the midst of the pandemic.

“Misinformation about COVID-19 is spreading quickly across the internet and endangering lives,” said NewsGuard Co-CEO Steven Brill. “We’re enlisting a wide range of companies and organizations to help address this with an urgent but simple public service campaign to help fight back.”

In recent weeks, NewsGuard’s team of analysts began noticing a number of websites spreading false information about COVID-19, including stories that went viral on social media platforms. In its Coronavirus Misinformation Tracking Center, NewsGuard so far has flagged 132 sites publishing misinformation about the illness. These falsehoods include claims that the virus can be prevented by swallowing bleach or colloidal silver, both of which can be fatal. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, NewsGuard data indicated that more than one in 10 of the news and information sites with which users engage each month across the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Italy are sites that peddle healthcare hoaxes such as that 5G causes cancer, fruit pits cure cancer and vaccines cause autism.

Partners in this effort so far include libraries, NGOs, security companies, and internet service providers from a range of countries and regions, including the United Kingdom’s largest consumer broadband and mobile network operator, BT, the US-based National Association of Media Literacy Education, local libraries such as the Richland Library in Columbia, South Carolina, the Internet Safety for Kids and Families program at global cyber security firm Trend Micro, the Family Online Safety Institute, news publisher McClatchy, the Atlantic Council, the Safer Internet Centre in Italy, the Italian National Medical Association (FNOMCeO), and telecommunications companies such as Tiscali in Italy.

“BT has long been committed to the online safety of our customers, providing advice and safeguarding tools that help protect all users. We welcome this initiative and NewsGuard’s efforts to improve digital news literacy and limit the spread of COVID-19 misinformation,” a BT spokesperson said.

“The Italian Medical Association supports the work done by NewsGuard to help web users to navigate with awareness among the many information sources about the coronavirus circulating online during this period,” said Cosimo Nume, Head of Communication for FNOMCeO.

“Media literacy is an important life skill and even more so during this ‘infodemic,’” said Lynette Owens, Founder and Global Director of the Internet Safety for Kids and Families program at  Trend Micro. “We are glad to support NewsGuard in this effort to help keep families around the world well-informed throughout the COVID-19 crisis.”

“The moment presented by the current crisis has highlighted more than ever the importance of being able to rely on trustworthy sources of information online,” said Stephen Balkam, CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute, whose members represent the world’s leading internet and communications companies. “We are glad to see NewsGuard doing its part to support these efforts.”

“In this unprecedented health crisis, we applaud NewsGuard’s public service initiative to distribute its powerful tool widely so that individuals can navigate online information and know what is accurate and reliable,” said Craig Forman, President and CEO of McClatchy, which operates 30 local newsrooms across the US.

“The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab identifies, exposes, and explains disinformation, and we believe in accountability and transparency online and around the world in order to shape a global future together, said Geysha González, Deputy Director for Policy Partnership, DFR Lab. “Working together is imperative to help audiences get more information about what they are consuming online. We look forward to contributing to this effort.”

NewsGuard only began to gather these partners late last week; thus, many internet service providers, libraries, NGOs, and government agencies are expected to join in this effort to make NewsGuard’s cost-free availability known to their customers and stakeholders. For example, BT, the internet service provider in the UK, pledged to alert its customers of the free tool on its website and through marketing messages.

By taking down the paywall to its browser extension, NewsGuard is also making its anti-misinformation tool free to public library patrons who are now unable to visit closed library branches in person, where they were using NewsGuard. Through the NewsGuard news literacy program sponsored by Microsoft, more than 700 libraries worldwide provided free access to NewGuard on the computers that patrons use at libraries, from Los Angeles to London to Milan. Now, those libraries and others are able to offer the NewsGuard browser extension free to patrons and their families at home on their personal devices to counter misinformation including COVID-19 hoaxes. The NewsGuard news literacy program is also used by schools, many of which have closed due to the virus. Teachers and students can now access the NewsGuard browser extension at home.

“As the COVID-19 crisis grows, accurate, trustworthy information on how to keep ourselves and others safe is more important than ever,” said Isobel Hunter, Chief Executive of Libraries Connected, the membership organization for heads of library services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. “So we welcome this generous offer from NewsGuard, especially now that many public libraries are having to close their doors. Our members are committed to continuing to provide access to accurate information and NewsGuard is a really simple and powerful tool to help them do so.”

“With many public libraries responsibly closing to address the current health crisis, libraries across the globe are seeking new ways to provide service and accurate information,” said Tony Tallent, Chief Program and Innovation Officer at the Richland Library in Columbia, South Carolina, and a member of NewsGuard’s Board of News Literacy Advisors. “NewsGuard is offering one more way of helping existing library partners as well as libraries that haven’t yet tried this innovative and helpful service to support community information needs.”

A separate mobile app for iOS and Android devices will be available—also for free—in approximately three weeks.

More About NewsGuard
NewsGuard was launched in September 2018 by media entrepreneur Steven Brill and former Wall Street Journal publisher Gordon Crovitz. The company  provides credibility ratings and detailed “Nutrition Labels” for thousands of news and information websites.

NewsGuard rates all the news and information websites that account for 95% of online engagement across the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, and Italy.

NewsGuard rates each site based on nine apolitical criteria of journalistic practice, including whether a site repeatedly publishes false content, whether it regularly corrects or clarifies errors, and whether it avoids deceptive headlines. It awards weighted points for each criterion and sums them up; a score of less than 60 out of 100 earns a “Red” rating, while 60 and above earns a “Green” rating, which indicates it is generally reliable.

NewsGuard’s ratings and Nutrition Labels can be licensed by internet service providers, browsers, news aggregators, and social media and search platforms in order to make NewsGuard’s information about news websites available to their users. These ratings are made available to consumers through its browser extension, which is available on Chrome, Safari, Edge, and Firefox browsers, and on mobile devices through the Edge mobile browser for iOS and Android devices. For more information, including to download the browser extension and review the ratings process, visit newsguardtech.com.