For-profit

NewsGuard

Location:

New York, NY

Formation:

2018

CEOs:

Steven Brill and Gordon Crovitz

Type:

For-profit company

NewsGuard is a web browser extension that rates the trustworthiness of online news sites based on nine criteria, providing a trust score between 0 and 100. NewsGuard has rated more than 6,000 websites and is used by over 700 libraries in the United States and Europe. [1] Founded by journalists Steven Brill and Gordon Crovitz in 2018, NewsGuard has more than 30 staff members who contribute to its reviews of websites. [2] [3]

Several right-of-center critics have accused NewsGuard of favoring traditional newspapers and exhibiting bias against conservative news outlets in its rating system, which NewsGuard has denied. [4] [5] After NewsGuard rated right-wing organization Breitbart as untrustworthy, the outlet published several articles criticizing NewsGuard for its alleged connections to previous Democratic administrations. [6] [7]

Rating Process and Activity

NewsGuard was founded with the intention of filtering out “fake news” and conspiracy theories, calling it “middleware” to prevent people from engaging with or sharing false content from low-quality news organizations. NewsGuard has criticized social media algorithms designed to boost engagement for encouraging individuals to believe and follow conspiracy theories and has argued that the browser extension can work against those algorithms by discrediting sensationalized news. [8]

NewsGuard gives approved websites a green check and denotes untrustworthy websites with a red exclamation point. When users install the browser extension, the appropriate symbol appears on any article they access from one of NewsGuard’s 6,000 reviewed websites. NewsGuard uses nine weighted criteria to evaluate whether or not to rank a news organization as trustworthy, sorting the criteria under “credibility” and “transparency” labels. [9]

NewsGuard ranks the credibility of news organizations based on whether or not they publish false content, present and gather information “responsibly,” correct published errors, clearly delineate between news and opinion, and avoid using deceptive headlines. [10] On transparency, NewsGuard rates organizations on whether they disclose their ownership and financing, clearly label advertisements, reveal potential conflicts of interest, and provide the names and contact information of writers. [11]

Of the ten largest newspapers in the United States, USA Today, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Tampa Bay Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and the Wall Street Journal all received a perfect 100 score from NewsGuard. [12] Newsday received a 92.5 score after being marked down for not disclosing its financing. [13] The New York Post received a score of 75 after failing all four transparency categories. [14]

Outside of its rating process, NewsGuard has also launched the Responsible Advertising for News Segments (RANS) tool. The tool allows advertisers to exclude their advertisements from websites determined to be untrustworthy by NewsGuard, instead redirecting advertising revenue to local news organizations and communities of ethnic minorities. [15]

NewsGuard’s efforts have been criticized as ineffective, with some arguing that those installing a browser extension to check news credibility already do not consume fake news. Critics have claimed that those NewsGuard aims to stop from consuming fake news are unlikely to download the extension, making its efforts futile. [16]

Accusations of Bias Against Conservative News Sites

On February 12, 2019, Harmeet Dhillon, co-chair of the Republican National Lawyers Association, wrote an opinion piece in the Daily Caller alleging that NewsGuard was biased against emerging online conservative media and favored traditional newspapers. [17]

Dhillon called NewsGuard a “scheme” equivalent to  “the dubious ‘fact checks’ that holier-than-thou establishment media outlets have used to belittle their competitors and silence people who see the world a little differently than the folks in the newsrooms in New York, Washington, and Los Angeles.” Citing the fact that most of NewsGuard’s leadership and advisors come from well-established publications, Dhillon accused NewsGuard of trying to “police” the media in support of left-of-center, establishment organizations. [18]

One week later, NewsGuard co-founder Gordon Crovitz responded with an opinion piece denying the charge, claiming that NewsGuard was “apolitical by design.” [19]

In 2020, NewsGuard awarded 15% of U.S.-based sites a perfect rating, many of which were left-of-center publications. These included the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Public Radio (NPR), and The Atlantic. [20] Nonetheless, some conservative organizations have also earned perfect trustworthiness rating. NewsGuard gave the Heritage Foundation a perfect 100 score and described it as “a leading American think tank,” and NewsGuard gave right-of-center news organization Townhall a perfect score as well. [21] [22]

There were, however, several prominent right-of-center news organizations that performed less well in NewsGuard’s rankings, including the Daily Caller, which received a score of 70. [23] NewsGuard alleged that they received the score because there were “significant exceptions” to the Daily Caller’s basic standards of credibility and transparency.” [24]

Fox News received a score of 69.5, resulting in its being classified as untrustworthy for an alleged failure to “gather and present information responsibly” and an unclear delineation between news and opinion reporting. [25] In its review, NewsGuard stated that Fox News published “unsubstantiated or inaccurate medical claims about the COVID-19 pandemic” and sanctioned the channel for promoting “the unproven use of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment” for COVID-19. [26]

NewsGuard has consistently ranked right-wing outlet Breitbart News as untrustworthy, alleging that it frequently publishes false or misleading information. [27] [28] [29] Though Breitbart made several corrections after NewsGuard pointed out inaccuracies in its reporting, NewsGuard continued to rank it as untrustworthy, claiming that the site’s corrections policy is not effective “if many significant corrections are only issued after being alerted by NewsGuard.” [30]

Over the past several years, Breitbart has retaliated with several articles criticizing NewsGuard. A 2019 Breitbart article referred to NewsGuard as “blacklisters” and implied that the organization is connected to Microsoft because Microsoft offers NewsGuard for free on its mobile browser. [31] [32] Breitbart further alleged that NewsGuard was “created and backed” by a founding team and advisory board “packed with neoconservatives and Obama-Clinton alumni, as well the Trump-hating former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden.” [33] NewsGuard has previously stated that its advisory board provides strategic advice but plays no role in the evaluations of news sites. [34]

Leadership and Investors

NewsGuard is led by co-CEOs Steven Brill and Gordon Crovitz. Brill founded The American Lawyer and Court TV, while Crovitz worked as a columnist and publisher for the Wall Street Journal. Other NewsGuard leaders include Eric Effron, former executive editor of The Week and editor at Reuters; James Warren, former Washington bureau chief of the New York Daily News and managing editor of the Chicago Tribune; and Amy Westfeldt, former editor at the Associated Press. [35] [36] [37] [38]

The NewsGuard advisory board features several high-profile, left-of-center political officials. These include former Clinton administration White House Communications Director Don Baer. The NewsGuard advisory board also features three Obama administration officials, including former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, former director of policy for the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement Kavita Patel, and former Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy Richard Stengel. [39]

Despite its predominately left-leaning members, the NewsGuard advisory board also features several officials from the George W. Bush administration, including former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and National Security Agency (NSA) Director Michael Hayden, and the former speechwriter for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. [40]

NewsGuard also lists the left-of-center John S. and James L. Knight Foundation as one of its investors. [41]

References

  1. NewsGuard home page. Accessed 4/24/2021. https://www.newsguardtech.com/how-it-works/ ^
  2. NewsGuard home page. Accessed 4/24/2021. https://www.newsguardtech.com/about/team/
    ^
  3. NewsGuard home page. Accessed 4/22/2021. https://www.newsguardtech.com/about/team/
    ^
  4. Harmeet Dhillon. Daily Caller. Feb. 12, 2019. “Microsoft Wants To Pick The News You Read”; Accessed 4/23/2021. https://dailycaller.com/2019/02/12/dhillon-microsoft-news/ ^
  5. Gordon Crovitz. Daily Caller. Feb. 17, 2019. “NewsGuard Treats News Equally – Whether It’s Left, Right Or Center”; Accessed 4/23/2021. https://dailycaller.com/2019/02/17/crovitz-newsguard/ ^
  6. Josh Keefe, Sarah Brandt, Kendrick McDonald, John Gregory. NewsGuard Nutrition Label on Breitbart. Accessed 4/22/2021. https://api.newsguardtech.com/label/breitbart.com?cid=6c2ec01e-4519-409d-961c-c5a328817dc3 ^
  7. Allum Bokhari. Breitbart News. Jan. 24, 2019. “NewsGuard Packed Board With NEO Conservatives, D.C. Power Players” Accessed 4/21/2021. https://www.breitbart.com/tech/2019/01/24/newsguard-packs-board-with-neo-conservatives-d-c-power-players/ ^
  8. Crovitz, L. Gordon. “Opinion: What I Learned on My Quest to Fix America’s Social Media Problem.” POLITICO. POLITICO, April 27, 2021. https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/04/27/america-social-media-problem-newsguard-484757. ^
  9. NewsGuard home page. Accessed 4/22/2021. https://www.newsguardtech.com/ratings/rating-process-criteria/ ^
  10. NewsGuard home page. Accessed 4/22/2021. https://www.newsguardtech.com/ratings/rating-process-criteria/ ^
  11. NewsGuard home page. Accessed 4/22/2021. https://www.newsguardtech.com/ratings/rating-process-criteria/ ^
  12. William Turvill. Press Gazette. Oct. 22, 2020. “Top Ten US Newspaper Circulations: Biggest Print Titles Have Lost 30% Of Sales Since 2016 Election”; Accessed 4/25/2021.  https://www.pressgazette.co.uk/top-ten-us-newspaper-circulations-biggest-print-titles-have-lost-30-of-sales-since-2016-election/ ^
  13. Peter Janecky. Sam Howard. NewsGuard Nutritional Rating on Newsday. Accessed 4/25/2021. https://api.newsguardtech.com/label/newsday.com?cid=6c2ec01e-4519-409d-961c-c5a328817dc3 ^
  14. Joe Danielewicz, Sarah Brandt, Evan Haddad. NewsGuard Nutritional Label on the New York Post. Accessed 4/23/2021. https://api.newsguardtech.com/label/nypost.com?cid=6c2ec01e-4519-409d-961c-c5a328817dc3 ^
  15. NewsGuard. “NewsGuard Launches ‘Responsible Advertising for News Segments’ to Help Brands Stop Funding Misinformation.” CSRWire. Accessed April 28, 2021. https://www.csrwire.com/press_releases/720336-newsguard-launches-responsible-advertising-news-segments-help-brands-stop. ^
  16. Molla, Rani. “It Will Take More than NewsGuard’s Team of Journalists to Stop the Spread of Fake News.” Vox. Vox Media Company, February 13, 2019. https://www.vox.com/2019/2/13/18220746/real-journalists-fake-news-newsguard. ^
  17. Harmeet Dhillon. Daily Caller. Feb. 12, 2019. “Microsoft Wants To Pick The News You Read”; Accessed 4/23/2021. https://dailycaller.com/2019/02/12/dhillon-microsoft-news/ ^
  18. Harmeet Dhillon. Daily Caller. Feb. 12, 2019. “Microsoft Wants To Pick The News You Read”; Accessed 4/23/2021. https://dailycaller.com/2019/02/12/dhillon-microsoft-news/ ^
  19. Gordon Crovitz. Daily Caller. Feb. 17, 2019. “NewsGuard Treats News Equally – Whether It’s Left, Right Or Center”; Accessed 4/23/2021. https://dailycaller.com/2019/02/17/crovitz-newsguard/ ^
  20. “Special Report: 2020 Lists.” NewsGuard, December 18, 2020. https://www.newsguardtech.com/special-report-2020-lists/. ^
  21. Sarah Brandt. NewsGuard Nutritional Rating on The Heritage Foundation. Accessed 4/23/2021. https://api.newsguardtech.com/label/heritage.org?cid=6c2ec01e-4519-409d-961c-c5a328817dc3 ^
  22. Josh Keefe, Melissa Goldin. NewsGuard Nutritional Rating on Townhall.com. Accessed 4/23/2021. https://api.newsguardtech.com/label/townhall.com?cid=6c2ec01e-4519-409d-961c-c5a328817dc3 ^
  23. Sarah Brandt. Nina Zweig. NewsGuard Nutritional Label on Daily Caller. Accessed 4/23/2021. https://api.newsguardtech.com/label/dailycaller.com?cid=6c2ec01e-4519-409d-961c-c5a328817dc3 ^
  24. Sarah Brandt. Nina Zweig. NewsGuard Nutritional Label on Daily Caller. Accessed 4/23/2021. https://api.newsguardtech.com/label/dailycaller.com?cid=6c2ec01e-4519-409d-961c-c5a328817dc3 ^
  25. Macaela Bennett. Melissa Goldin. NewsGuard Nutrition Label on Fox News. Accessed 4/23/2021. https://api.newsguardtech.com/label/foxnews.com?cid=6c2ec01e-4519-409d-961c-c5a328817dc3 ^
  26. Macaela Bennett. Melissa Goldin. NewsGuard Nutrition Label on Fox News. Accessed 4/23/2021. https://api.newsguardtech.com/label/foxnews.com?cid=6c2ec01e-4519-409d-961c-c5a328817dc3 ^
  27. Hiawatha Bray. Boston Globe. Oct. 31, 2018. “Standing Guard Against Fake News”; Accessed 4/21/2021. https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2018/10/31/standing-guard-against-fake-news/kq4UhhtSFcGCkfV0syXfFK/story.html ^
  28. Josh Keefe, Sarah Brandt, Kendrick McDonald, John Gregory. NewsGuard Nutrition Label on Breitbart. Accessed 4/22/2021. https://api.newsguardtech.com/label/breitbart.com?cid=6c2ec01e-4519-409d-961c-c5a328817dc3 ^
  29. Josh Keefe, Sarah Brandt, Kendrick McDonald, John Gregory. NewsGuard Nutrition Label on Breitbart. Accessed 4/22/2021. https://api.newsguardtech.com/label/breitbart.com?cid=6c2ec01e-4519-409d-961c-c5a328817dc3 ^
  30. Josh Keefe, Sarah Brandt, Kendrick McDonald, John Gregory. NewsGuard Nutrition Label on Breitbart. Accessed 4/22/2021. https://api.newsguardtech.com/label/breitbart.com?cid=6c2ec01e-4519-409d-961c-c5a328817dc3 ^
  31. John Nolte. Breitbart. April 23, 2019. “Blacklisters At Microsoft’s NewsGuard Still Label Most Debunked Russia Hoaxes As ‘Credible’”; Accessed 4/23/2021. https://www.breitbart.com/the-media/2019/04/23/blacklisters-at-microsofts-newsguard-still-label-most-debunked-russia-hoaxes-as-credible/ ^
  32. NewsGuard home page. Accessed 4/21/2021. https://www.newsguardtech.com/edge/ ^
  33. Allum Bokhari. Breitbart News. Jan. 24, 2019. “NewsGuard Packed Board With NEO Conservatives, D.C. Power Players” Accessed 4/21/2021. https://www.breitbart.com/tech/2019/01/24/newsguard-packs-board-with-neo-conservatives-d-c-power-players/ ^
  34. NewsGuard home page. Accessed 4/21/2021. https://www.newsguardtech.com/our-advisory-board/ ^
  35. “Our Team.” NewsGuard, January 20, 2021. https://www.newsguardtech.com/about/team/. ^
  36. “Eric Effron.” NewsGuard, October 30, 2018. https://www.newsguardtech.com/about/team/eric-effron/. ^
  37. “James Warren.” NewsGuard, August 7, 2018. https://www.newsguardtech.com/about/team/james-warren/. ^
  38. “Amy Westfeldt.” NewsGuard, May 19, 2019. https://www.newsguardtech.com/about/team/amy-westfeldt/. ^
  39. “Our Advisory Board.” NewsGuard, October 29, 2020. https://www.newsguardtech.com/our-advisory-board/. ^
  40. “Our Advisory Board.” NewsGuard, October 29, 2020. https://www.newsguardtech.com/our-advisory-board/. ^
  41. NewsGuard home page. Accessed 4/23/2021. https://www.newsguardtech.com/about/our-investors/ ^
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NewsGuard


New York, NY