NewsGuard Launches ‘Human Intelligence’ BrandGuard Service to Help Advertisers Keep their Brands Off of ‘Fake News’ Websites

NewsGuard’s Brand Safety offering flags sites that publish hoaxes and misinformation, while giving green light to legitimate publishers—offering programmatic advertisers detailed ratings and rich metadata for websites accounting for 97% of social media engagement with news and information in the U.S.

(November 19, 2018) NewsGuard, a new company that uses trained journalists to rate and review news and information websites for credibility and transparency practices, today announced the launch of BrandGuard, the NewsGuard brand safety tool aimed at helping advertisers keep their brands off of unreliable news and information sites while giving them the assurance they need to support thousands of Green-rated news and information sites, big and small.

“The ad tech firms offer great services that use artificial intelligence to screen for pornography and sites filled with hate speech, but they have no product that can spot fake news, because fake news fakes out AI by reading and looking like real news,” said NewsGuard co-CEO Steven Brill. “We offer a vital added layer of protection by guaranteeing to advertisers, their agencies, and their ad tech firms that the sites we review have been read by trained humans—typically two analysts and two senior editors signing off on each review—before we rate them. That’s why we’re already in discussions with the ad tech firms, leading agencies, and major advertisers. We have dozens of dedicated journalists supervised by some of the nation’s most credentialed editors doing this and only this.”

Advertisers and ad agencies now have the option to license a database of NewsGuard’s ratings, which include “Red” and “Green” ratings for each website, a credibility score, details about each site’s performance on NewsGuard’s nine journalistic criteria, and a host of metadata fields.

NewsGuard’s Co-CEO Gordon Crovitz explained that the new product is also designed to solve the problem that many advertisers now refuse to advertise programmatically on news websites altogether out of concern that their ads could end up on inappropriate news websites.

“An advertiser’s worst nightmare is having an ad placement damage even one customer’s trust in a brand,” Crovitz explained. “So without a good way to determine reliability of news content, many advertisers have simply chosen to avoid advertising on news content altogether. This is bad for the financially challenged journalism industry and for democracy generally. It is also a missed opportunity for those brands to reach valuable and engaged audiences,” Crovitz said. “By using NewsGuard’s BrandGuard, advertisers can once again benefit from the additional reach for their marketing available through the websites of legitimate news publishers.”

“Now, with our brand safety offering, an advertiser can, for example, choose not to serve ads on sites that regularly publish false or unreliable content, but have ads appear on websites with high journalistic standards,” Crovitz explained.

A key feature of NewsGuard’s brand safety service is its ability to find and rate unreliable news websites from new or lesser-known news sources before they start to trend on social media. NewsGuard employs a misinformation “SWAT Team” to monitor data from a variety of sources to discover new websites that are promoting hoaxes, conspiracy theories, or other forms of unreliable news.

“If a new website is launched in Macedonia in the middle of the night pushing a hoax story targeted to U.S. users, our SWAT Team’s job is to find it, assign analysts to it, and issue a rating with in a few hours,” said Brill. “Most of these sites are created with the specific purpose of generating revenue from programmatic advertising—and advertisers don’t realize until it’s too late that their ads have been showing up on hoax stories.”

“As a customer, why would you trust a brand that advertises on a website that claims, for example, that the Sandy Hook shooting victims were crisis actors?” Brill added. “There are sites pushing stories like this—and worse—being launched all around the world every day by people who know how to make a story go viral. And we see major brands’ ads showing up on these sites on a regular basis.”

Brill cited the example of the NTK Network website, which looks like a legitimate news website, but in fact is operated by a political public relations firm, Definers Public Affairs, that was identified in the New York Times last week as working on behalf of Facebook to undermine Facebook’s critics. “NewsGuard flagged this website with a red rating weeks ago,” Brill said. Yet among the brands advertising on the site last week—even after the Times article had ignited controversy and exposed NTK—were Capital One, Starbucks, and Progressive Life Insurance.

Programmatic ads from Capital One, Progressive, and Starbucks appeared on NTKNetwork.com, which looks like a real news site but is actually run by a political public relations firm.

NewsGuard’s Vice President for Strategic Partnerships, Carter Stone, emphasized that NewsGuard’s data can be sorted and filtered to allow advertisers to make tailored decisions about where to place ads—and where to avoid doing so.

“We expect most advertisers will value the simplicity of NewsGuard’s Red list and Green list of domains, which is the easiest way to separate trustworthy sites from untrustworthy ones, and our database offers significant flexibility,” Stone said. “For example, an advertiser could choose to avoid ad placements on any site that has deceptive headlines, or doesn’t disclose its ownership, or does not clearly label all of its advertising. Customers don’t like feeling as if they’ve been tricked by a publisher or by the brand advertising on that kind of site,” Stone added.

Advertisers or ad agencies interested in NewsGuard’s brand safety offering can contact Stone at 212 332 6316 or at carter.stone@newsguardtech.com or learn more at www.newsguardtech.com/.

About NewsGuard:

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,” conducted by trained analysts with diverse backgrounds based on nine journalistic criteria, for thousands of news and information websites. NewsGuard’s ratings are available through NewsGuard’s browser extension for Chrome, Safari, Edge and Firefox browsers and are displayed next to links in users’ search engine results and social media feeds. NewsGuard’s ratings can be licensed by social media and search platforms that wish to make NewsGuard’s ratings available to all of their users. For more information: www.newsguardtech.com.


Carter Stone, VP, Strategic Partnerships: carter.stone@newsguardtech.com, 212 332 6316

Steven Brill, Co-CEO: steven.brill@newsguardtech.com,  212 332 6301

Gordon Crovitz, Co-CEO: gordon.crovitz@newsguardtech.com, 212 332 6407