NewsGuard Launches Coronavirus Misinformation Tracking Center
Ratings and labels for news websites warn readers to be aware of health care hoaxes
(Feb. 25, 2020—New York City) In an effort to centralize the information that the world’s only human solution to misinformation has been gathering about websites publishing misinformation about the Wuhan coronavirus, NewsGuard today launched the Coronavirus Misinformation Tracking Center, listing 31 sites that it has found are publishing false and potentially harmful stories about the origins and impact of the virus and the science related to it.
Misinformation about the coronavirus includes false claims about both the origins of the virus and treatments for it. Among the most popular false claims are that the virus was engineered in a Chinese laboratory as a bioweapon or stolen by Chinese spies from Canada. Hoax websites have promoted dangerous “treatments” for the virus including colloidal silver, bleach, and high doses of Vitamin C.
NewsGuard also launched a Coronavirus Misinformation Hotline. Readers who have come across a false story about the Wuhan coronavirus on a site we have not listed on the Tracking Center can submit it here.
“NewsGuard’s mission is to stop the spread of misinformation by rating the reliability and trustworthiness of news sites and websites posing as news sites,” said Gabby Deutch, NewsGuard’s Washington correspondent and a co-leader of the Tracking Center. “Misinformation and disinformation related to health care poses the greatest immediate threat to those who read if it is not flagged for what it is—which is what we do.”
“We’ve already uncovered 31 sites that are spreading coronavirus misinformation, and the number is growing every day,” said John Gregory, a long-time health care journalist and the Tracking Center’s other co-leader. “They range from InfoWars (the website run by far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones) to NaturalNews.com (a health care hoax site that regularly promotes misinformation about vaccines). Many are enormously popular, with their posts being exponentially more widely shared on social media than some of the world’s most reliable health care information websites. In a few cases,” Gregory added, “some news sites that NewsGuard has rated Green overall — meaning they are generally reliable — have nonetheless published false or unsubstantiated information about the virus, and they are listed on the Tracking Center for that reason.”
Readers who come to the Tracking Center will see a list of the misinformation sites. By clicking on these links, they can read NewsGuard’s Nutrition Label, which provides extensive information about each site’s background, financing, and journalistic standards.
NewsGuard’s ratings and labels are available through products such as Microsoft’s Edge browser for iOS and Android devices and by subscribers to the NewsGuard browser extension.
“Research has proven that labeling the reliability of websites is the most effective way to warn readers to proceed with caution before trusting the credibility of websites,” said Steven Brill, co-CEO of NewsGuard. “Without news consumers are not empowered with information about the reliability of hoax health care websites, it’s no surprise that false claims about the virus go viral. We look forward to all news consumers having access to ratings of websites wherever and however they get their news, whether from social media, search, or visits directly to websites.”
NewsGuard data have shown that engagement by Americans with more than one in 10 news and information websites is with websites that publish health care hoaxes. Even before the Coronavirus outbreak, these websites peddled hoaxes such as that vaccines cause autism, 5G causes cancer and fruit pits cure cancer.
Launched in March 2018 by media entrepreneur 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 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, 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. Hundreds of libraries globally use NewsGuard’s free media literacy 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, email@example.com, +1 212-332-6301
Gordon Crovitz, Co-CEO, firstname.lastname@example.org, +1 212-332-6407
John Gregory, Staff Analyst, email@example.com
Gabby Deutch, Washington Correspondent, firstname.lastname@example.org