A little more than a month ago, the Kansas City Public Library made a new truth-in-news-reporting tool available to users of public computers in all 10 of its locations.
Now, at a time when the dissemination of accurate, dependable information is more essential than ever, that service — NewsGuard — is being made available to anyone, anywhere, with an internet connection. It has removed its online paywall until July 1, 2020 (details here).
KCPL became the first library in Missouri to implement the service in February. The wider no-cost availability comes as the Library and many other institutions, agencies, and business are closed during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Launched by Steven Brill, the founder of Court TV, the Yale Journalism Initiative, and The American Lawyer website and magazine, and former Wall Street Journal publisher Gordon Crovitz, NewsGuard is designed to help the public sift through the news of the day and sort fact from fiction – from updates on the coronavirus to reports about the upcoming election.
It works as a browser extension, providing credibility ratings and “nutrition label” reviews of thousands of news and information websites, indicating which are generally trustworthy and which been found to spread misinformation. A Coronavirus Misinformation Tracking Center flags websites with false information about the coronavirus.
NewsGuard engages a team of 25 journalists to determine the reliability of more than 4,000 news and information sites, which are graded on a scale of 0 to 100. Among the criteria are whether an outlet repeatedly publishes false content, regularly corrects or clarifies errors, avoids deceptive headlines, and discloses ownership and management.
A site with 60 or more points gets a green checkmark as “trustworthy,” meaning it “generally maintains basic standards of accuracy and accountability.” Sites getting fewer than 60 points are given a red exclamation point, signaling unreliability. Those colored icons appear alongside articles in social media or in search results, and readers can click to see how they were assessed.
Monitored outlets range from traditional news sites – including The Kansas City Star’s website, which earns a perfect score – to blogs, opinion publications, and health information sources. NewsGuard notes sites like The Onion that are satire and crowdsourcing platforms such as YouTube and Wikipedia.
The Library will continue to offer the service on its public computers after NewsGuard restores its public paywall on July 1.
“The internet is an everchanging resource with much good to offer our patrons,” says Joel Jones, the Library’s deputy director of library services. “It is also a place with an abundance of unreliable resources that can spread misinformation. NewsGuard is a tool our patrons can use to help identify what is accurate from what is wrong.”
The NewsGuard extension is downloadable by Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Safari users here.
NewsGuard Rating Categories
RED: A website is rated red if it generally fails to meet basic standards of credibility and transparency. (NewsGuard notes whether the site failed several of nine criteria, or whether it severely violates journalistic standards by failing an especially significant number of criteria.)
SATIRE: A humor or satire site receive a satire rating, indicating that it is not a real news website. NewsGuard does not rate these sites according to the nine journalistic criteria, but does provide a description of each site including, if possible, who is behind it.
PLATFORM: A site receives a platform rating if it primarily hosts user-generated content that it does not vet. Information from platform sites may or may not be reliable. NewsGuard does not rate these sites according to the nine journalistic criteria, but it does provide a description of each site and its practices.
Sample News Guard Nutrition Label for CNN.com