A news or information website is rated green if its content is produced by people who are trying to communicate news, information, and opinion that they believe is accurate, and who adhere to practices aimed at ensuring basic standards of accuracy and accountability. A site is rated red if it fails to meet these minimum standards.
As explained below, NewsGuard uses 9 specific criteria to evaluate these possible points of failure. We start with the premise that a site should be green until our evaluation of the site, based on those 9 criteria, produces a red rating.
These determinations are made through reporting by NewsGuard’s analysts, who are trained journalists supervised by experienced editors. NewsGuard’s analysts review and assess the content and processes of each site and contact those in charge of the site for comment when necessary. The resulting Nutrition Label and rating is reviewed by at least two senior editors, and often by many. Any sites that receive Red ratings are reviewed again by all senior editors and the co-CEOs. Any disagreements are resolved by the executive editor, managing editor, and co-CEOs. The backgrounds of the analysts and editors named, as well as those of the supervising editors, can be found by clicking on their names or going to the Our Team page of this website.
It should be noted that the only attribute that sites rated green have in common is that they did not fail to meet enough of the 9 criteria that they should be rated red. Not all sites rated green are equal. As our Nutrition Label write-ups indicate, some are much fairer and more accurate in their reporting than others. Some are more transparent and accountable than others. Some are more robustly staffed and regularly produce superior content, while others struggle with tight budgets. Some focus on reporting the news, while others have a mission based on a political or other point of view that they unabashedly support. NewsGuard’s mission is not to make granular judgments but to establish and communicate adherence to basic standards in order to give readers information they need to assess their sources of information online. Again, the Nutrition Labels attempt to convey those differences, while the green–red rating provides a more basic, binary distinction. Put simply, red-rated sites fail the test of the key criteria and sometimes even all 9.
The 9 Criteria
Here are the 9 criteria that NewsGuard uses in determining if a provider is rated red. A site that fails to adhere to a preponderance of these criteria, as described in the weighted criteria definitions below, is rated red. No site must adhere to all of the criteria to be rated green.
In every case the NewsGuard Nutrition Labels that are provided for each site (by clicking on the rating) spell out the site’s adherence to each of the 9 criteria that yielded that source’s particular rating.
The 9 criteria below are listed in order of their importance in determining a red rating. For example, failure to adhere to the first criteria—publishing false content—will be more influential in determining a red rating than failure to reveal information about content creators.
Does not repeatedly publish false content: The site does not repeatedly produce stories that have been found—either by journalists at NewsGuard or elsewhere—to be clearly and significantly false, and which have not been quickly and prominently corrected. (22 Points. A label with a score lower than 60 points gets a red rating.)
Gathers and presents information responsibly: Content on the site is created by reporters, writers, videographers, researchers, or other information providers who generally seek to be accurate and fair in gathering, reporting, and interpreting information, even if they approach their work from a strong point of view. They do this by referencing multiple sources, preferably those that present direct, firsthand information on a subject or event. (18 Points)
Regularly corrects or clarifies errors: The site makes clear how to report an error or complaint, has effective practices for publishing clarifications and corrections, and notes corrections in a transparent way. (12.5 Points)
Handles the difference between news and opinion responsibly: Content providers who convey the impression that they report news or a mix of news and opinion distinguish opinion from news reporting, and when reporting news, they do not regularly or egregiously misstate, distort, or cherry pick facts, or egregiously cherry pick stories, to advance opinions. Content providers whose clearly expressed purpose is to advance a particular point of view do not regularly and egregiously misstate or distort facts to make their case. (12.5 Points)
Avoids deceptive headlines: The site generally does not publish headlines that include significantly false information or significantly overstate what is actually in the story. (10 Points)
Website discloses ownership and financing: The site discloses its ownership and/or financing, as well as any notable ideological or political positions held by those with a significant financial interest in the site (including in the case of nonprofits, its major donors), in a user-friendly manner. (7.5 Points)
Clearly labels advertising: The site makes clear which content is paid for and which is not. (7.5 Points)
Reveals who’s in charge, including any possible conflicts of interest: Information about those in charge of the content is made accessible on the site, including any possible conflicts of interest. (5 Points)
The site provides the names of content creators, along with either contact information or biographical information: Information about those producing the content is made accessible on the site. (5 Points)
Each of the nine criteria is assigned a certain number of points, as noted in the section above. The points add up to 100. A website that scores less than 60 points is rated red.
Note: The weighting of these criteria may change as we receive feedback and continue to develop our process. When such changes are made they will be noted here.
Criteria Weighting Points:
Does not repeatedly publish false content
Gathers and presents information responsibly
Regularly corrects or clarifies errors
Handles the difference between news and opinion responsibly
Avoids deceptive headlines
Website discloses ownership and financing
Clearly labels advertising
Reveals who’s in charge, including any possible conflicts of interest
The site provides the names of content creators, along with either contact information or biographical information