European Commission Announces NewsGuard as New Prospective Signatory to the Code of Practice on Disinformation
Regulators announce revisions to strengthen its code and call on digital platforms to do more to protect their users from the misinformation they distribute and recommend
(Oct. 6, 2021 — New York) The European Commission announced on Oct. 1 that NewsGuard has joined the companies revising its Code of Practice on Disinformation and is a prospective signatory to the code, which currently applies to the leading digital platforms such as Facebook, Google/YouTube and Twitter.
In announcing the addition of NewsGuard, the European Commission stressed that the platforms must do more to meet their commitments to empower consumers with the information they need to judge the trustworthiness of sources in their social media news feeds and search results. “Users should have access to tools to understand and flag disinformation and safely navigate in the online environment,” the Commission said.
NewsGuard, which uses nine basic, apolitical criteria of journalistic practice to rate all the sources that account for 95% of engagement with news and information in the countries in which it operates, offers platforms its ratings and Nutrition Labels so that the platforms can comply with the code’s requirements on “empowering consumers” to protect users of social media and search engines from misinformation.
Under the existing code, the platforms agreed to provide “objective criteria” to help their users assess the trustworthiness of news sources: “Such transparency should reflect the importance of facilitating the assessment of content through indicators of the trustworthiness of content sources, media ownership and verified identity. These indicators should be based on objective criteria and endorsed by news media associations, in line with journalistic principles and processes.”
Among the signatories to the code, Microsoft is the first to provide NewsGuard ratings and labels to its users as a “middleware solution” for empowering consumers. Microsoft has licensed NewsGuard ratings and labels and provides them free of charge to all users of its Edge browser.
The European Commission identified its code as the first “framework worldwide setting out commitments by platforms and industry to fight disinformation.” Under the terms of the code, the platforms commit to protect their users from the misinformation on their platforms that the World Health Organization—which uses NewsGuard data to identify COVID-19 and other healthcare hoaxes on the digital platforms—has identified as an “infodemic.”
In announcing planned revisions to strengthen the code, Věra Jourová, European Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency, said: “Online players have a special responsibility regarding spreading and monetizing disinformation. They must become more transparent, accountable and safe by design.”
In announcing revisions to the code first promulgated in 2018, the European Commission said the code must be “strengthened to provide a firm response to disinformation” and that “substantial additional efforts are needed to reduce the flow of harmful disinformation.” The current code suffers from “a lack of appropriate monitoring mechanism, including key performance indicators.” The commission said it “expects signatories to closely follow the guidance when revising the code to make sure that it lives up to the expectations for a strong EU instrument.”
In addition to the European Commission code, the UK is preparing Online Safety legislation that would create a new duty of care for the largest social media and search engines, including to protect their users from misinformation. In the US, Congress is debating new obligations for the platforms to protect consumers in order for the platforms to benefit from immunity under Sec. 230 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
Launched in March 2018 by media entrepreneur and award-winning journalist Steven Brill and former Wall Street Journal publisher Gordon Crovitz, NewsGuard 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 products include NewsGuard, HealthGuard, and BrandGuard, which helps marketers concerned about their brand safety, and the Misinformation Fingerprints catalog of top hoaxes.
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 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, education companies, and social media and search platforms in order to make NewsGuard’s information about news websites available to their users. Consumers can access these ratings by purchasing a subscription to NewsGuard, which costs $2.95/month and includes access to NewsGuard’s browser extension for Chrome, Safari, and Firefox and its mobile app for iOS and Android. The extension is available for free on Microsoft’s Edge browser through a license agreement with Microsoft, and NewsGuard’s ratings can also be accessed free through the Edge mobile browser. Hundreds of public libraries globally receive free access to use NewsGuard’s browser extension on their public-access computers to give their patrons more context for the news they encounter online. For more information, including to download the browser extension and review the ratings process, visit newsguardtech.com.
- Steven Brill, Co-CEO, firstname.lastname@example.org, +1 212-332-6301
- Gordon Crovitz, Co-CEO, email@example.com, +1 212-332-6407