NewsGuard Partners with DCMS and BT to Help Counter Spread of COVID-19 Fake News as Misinformation Peaks
London, 27 March 2020 – NewsGuard is partnering with The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and BT to raise awareness of a free tool to help the UK public identify fake news and learn about the dangers of COVID-19 misinformation. Misinformation poses a significant threat to public health; in recent weeks false and dangerous rumours about claims about potential ‘cures’ and the origin of the virus and have spread at an alarming rate across social media sites.
NewsGuard’s browser extension provides users with warnings when websites have published false or misleading information about COVID-19, including hoaxes and dangerous misinformation, cures or conspiracy theories. From today, NewsGuard is making this browser extension free to download until July 1 as users across the world struggle to identify trusted sources, sharing and engaging with misinformation instead.
The spread of online misinformation is increasing as COVID-19 public information campaigns and updates dominate the global news agenda. As part of its Coronavirus Misinformation Tracking Center, NewsGuard has identified 141 websites publishing articles with COVID-19 misinformation. These websites have promoted ‘cures’ such as that swallowing bleach or colloidal silver will prevent the virus. 82% of these websites had been rated “red”, or unreliable, by NewsGuard for publishing misinformation on a range of topics prior to the coronavirus outbreak.
NewsGuard data shows that misinformation is attracting a significant amount of engagement from users, shared on social media across the world. A worrying example is US website WND.com, which has been rated ‘red’ by NewsGuard for publishing conspiracy theories, including about COVID-19. This includes one article which claims a US doctor cured hundreds of patients despite the fact that this information contradicts guidance published by WHO, CDC and the NHS. The article has received over 160,000 Facebook engagements in 24 hours. This is more than all NHS websites have received across Facebook and Twitter over the past 30 days and the article was one of the top-5 most shared articles on COVID-19 shared in the UK during this period.
NewsGuard’s journalists issue ‘green’ and ‘red’ trust ratings for thousands of news and information websites across the UK, U.S. and Europe. The browser extension tool also offers detailed ‘Nutrition Labels’ for more than 4,000 websites, representing 95% of all online engagement in the UK, US, Italy, France, and Germany.
With customer information campaigns starting today, UK operator BT and the UK’s library associations, Libraries Connected and the Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians, will be working with NewsGuard to encourage families and users across the country critically to assess the COVID-19 sources they engage with, using NewsGuard’s services to help identify misinformation and choose trusted sources.
Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said:
“We need people to follow the advice of our medical experts so we can protect the NHS and save lives. But false or misleading information about coronavirus shared online could undermine our efforts.
“This very welcome move by NewsGuard will give people a free and effective tool helping them access trustworthy news sources during these challenging times.”
BT Corporate Affairs Director Ed Pettersaid:
“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.”
BT has pledged to alert its customers of the free tool on its website and through marketing messages.
Anna-Sophie Harling, Europe MD at NewsGuard, said:
“Now, more than ever, it is critical that users learn to distinguish between credible, official sources of information and purveyors of false, often dangerous misinformation. We’re proud to be able to play a part in the UK’s efforts to slow the pace of the COVID-19 outbreak and help the public confidently to navigate the never-ending landscape of online health information.”
NewsGuard is committed to continuing its news literacy programme during this period. Sponsored by Microsoft, more than 700 libraries worldwide have free access to NewsGuard on their computers, from London to Los Angeles to Milan. Now, by making its browser extension free to download, libraries and schools will also be able to offer their communities NewsGuard’s services on their personal devices.
Isobel Hunter, Chief Executive of Libraries Connected, said:
“As the COVID-19 crisis grows, accurate, trustworthy information on how to keep ourselves and others safe is more important than ever. 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.”
Additional partners in this effort so far include libraries, NGOs, security companies, and internet service providers from a range of countries and regions, including the US-based National Association of Media Literacy Education, the Internet Safety for Kids and Families program at global cyber security firm Trend Micro, the Family Online Safety Institute, US 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.
A separate mobile app for iOS and Android devices will be available—also for free—in approximately three weeks.
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 US, UK, 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. For more information, including to download the browser extension and review the ratings process, visit newsguardtech.com.