By Macaela Bennett and Sarah Brandt
When you see a headline in a social media post or search result, do you know who’s behind the article or whether they have an agenda?
You may have scrolled past headlines such as “News report reveals the shocking truth about the meningitis vaccine” or “Is 5G Hazardous to Our Health?” and had no way to know that they were published by dubious sources. You could have read and shared them without realizing that the first article was published by a network of misinformation sites that regularly posts false information about vaccines, and the second came from a government-sponsored news organization spreading disinformation about 5G wireless networks.
NewsGuard helps solve that.
A human-based approach to evaluating online news sources
NewsGuard is a tool to help you assess the reliability of your online information sources by providing context about the journalistic practices of thousands of news websites.
At NewsGuard, we work with a team of journalists who research websites and rate them based on nine criteria, which are widely accepted journalism standards. The criteria assess, for example, whether the sites publish deceptive headlines, regularly correct their errors, and disclose their conflicts of interest. For each website they rate, NewsGuard’s journalists write a Nutrition Label review explaining how they decided whether the site passed or failed each criterion and giving background on the publication and its history.
If you want help sifting through thousands of news websites, and determining which ones are publishing legitimate work, you can download NewsGuard’s extension onto your computer’s internet browser.
Reflect before hitting “retweet” or “share”
Once the extension is installed, NewsGuard’s icons will show up in search results, on social media feeds, and while visiting news websites. Hovering over each icon will show you a short description of the website and whether it met each of NewsGuard’s standards.
If you want to dig deeper, you can click to read the full Nutrition Label, which provides extensive background about the source, the names of everyone from NewsGuard who wrote and edited the review, and a list of sources used to establish its rating.
Just as nutrition labels on ice cream cartons might make you pause before eating an entire pint, NewsGuard’s Nutrition Labels are there to help users reflect before hitting “retweet” or “share.”
To use NewsGuard on your mobile phone, download the Microsoft Edge browser and enable “news ratings” in settings. So far, NewsGuard has rated thousands of websites in the U.S., the U.K., France, Italy, and Germany — with more coming soon.
Here are some additional resources that can help you navigate your online news sources:
Macaela Bennett and Sarah Brandt work for NewsGuard as analysts reviewing news websites and as news literacy coordinators establishing partnerships with librarians and educators around the world who use NewsGuard to teach media literacy skills. If you would like to learn more about NewsGuard or use it with your students or library patrons, you can contact them at [email protected] and [email protected].
It is important to reflect on the information you are reading and sharing. To learn more about media literacy, watch these short #YLAIVerifies videos.
The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the YLAI Network or the U.S. government.