NewsGuard Statement: WHO Partnership

NewsGuard is partnering with the World Health Organization to fight the “infodemic” of online misinformation

NewsGuard today announced an agreement with the World Health Organization to provide the WHO and the technology platforms that WHO advises on healthcare-related online safety with a variety of reports and data aimed at fighting online COVID-19 misinformation online. The NewsGuard information is being provided to the WHO on a pro bono basis. Key NewsGuard data will be made available to digital platforms, including Facebook, Google/YouTube, Twitter and TikTok, at the direction of the WHO.

Since NewsGuard analysts started using human intelligence—rating and creating Nutrition Labels indicating the overall reliability of online news and information sources—NewsGuard’s team has been surprised by the sheer volume of healthcare-related hoaxes. Teaming up with the WHO to counter these hoaxes significantly enhances the impact of our work.

Dr. Sylvie Briand, the Director, Infectious Hazards Management Department at the WHO, explained the WHO-NewsGuard partnership this way: “WHO has been fighting an infodemic of misinformation on multiple fronts, working hand in hand with governments, the private sector and civil society. It is vital that people everywhere get the right information at the right time to protect themselves and their loves ones. That’s why we are looking forward to working with NewsGuard and other platforms to fight misinformation and disinformation.”

The agreement includes four areas of collaboration:

  1. NewsGuard has agreed to make available to the WHO and the technology companies it designates its reports and data related to the websites and social media accounts responsible for publishing reliable information and those responsible for publishing false or misleading information on health-related issues.
  2. Special NewsGuard reports will be provided to WHO and the technology companies it designates identifying trends in online healthcare disinformation and misinformation.
  3. The WHO will create a portal on its website, co-branded with NewsGuard, where the information described above will be presented as the WHO’s “Health Misinformation and Disinformation Monitor Powered by NewsGuard.”
  4. NewsGuard has agreed to provide data and information related to healthcare-related disinformation and misinformation that is appearing on each of the digital platforms, including major social media and search providers. The data and information will be available as an electronic feed to the relevant social media and search platforms that the WHO designates to receive it.

This information will include trends in misinformation and disinformation related to each platform and NewsGuard’s ratings of the overall reliability and trustworthiness of these sources. Most important, it will include access to NewsGuard’s new Misinformation Fingerprint—a unique identifier for each hoax that, when combined with the platforms’ machine learning tools, will allow platforms to identify each hoax across the entirety of their platforms. This will enable these platforms to use NewsGuard’s data and reporting resources to fight these myths more proactively than they can by fact checking them after they publish some damaging content. Social media and search companies will also be able to mitigate the damage caused by the spreading of misinformation by providing reliable information, such as from the WHO, to the people whose social media feeds and search results featured hoaxes.

With NewsGuard giving these social media and search platforms information about the top hoaxes and the websites and social media accounts spreading these hoaxes, the digital platforms will finally be able to act before these new myths—whether it’s about a vaccine or another supposed source of the virus—spread on their platforms. For example, six months ago, sources peddling the myth that 5G caused COVID-19 were peddling the myth that 5G causes cancer. NewsGuard had already tagged these sites as unreliable well before they began spreading the 5G-caused-COVID hoax.

NewsGuard’s team of journalists has been tracking COVID-19 misinformation for the past several months in the company’s Coronavirus Misinformation Tracking Center, which includes a list of domains that have published misinformation about the disease and examples of false stories they have published. The Tracking Center has identified 314 websites that have published misinformation relating to the virus, such as false claims that bleach or Vitamin C will prevent the virus or that any vaccine developed for COVID-19 will be too dangerous to take. These hoaxes are among the catalogue of Misinformation Fingerprints that NewsGuard will provide to the digital platforms.

NewsGuard will provide this data at no charge to the WHO and to technology companies working with the WHO, as well as special “insight” reports on emerging conspiracy theories and hoaxes around COVID-19 and vaccines. NewsGuard already supplies its data to Microsoft as part of a global partnership announced in August 2018.

Beyond its COVID-19 data, NewsGuard’s ratings database covers all the news and information sites that account for 95% of online engagement in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Italy and includes flags for specific categories of false news, such as health misinformation. Its Misinformation Fingerprints product includes all the top hoaxes and misinformation, including relating to healthcare topics.