The "NewsGuard" app gives news ratings "confidence" and targets alternative media. What could go wrong?


Another day, another effort to fight the "false news" online. This time, it's NewsGuard, a new application claiming to help defend against "disinformation" by adding "trust rankings" to news sites. But can we trust the application itself?

Color coded system with (potentially) no issue

NewsGuard evaluates news using a color coding system designed and controlled by a "Killer team" analysts who claim not to have "Political axes to grind". Until now, the app has evaluated more than 2,000 popular news websites, but plans to eventually rank the 7,500 news and information sites the most. read in the United States before becoming global.

The application uses "9 criteria" determine if a particular site is classified as green, yellow or red. To achieve a green rating, a site must gather and present information. "responsible" must not publish "false content" and must clarify and correct errors. To avoid "Deceptive titles" and divulge "Ownership and financing" can also help to get a green rating, or "Nutritional label" as NewsGuard refers to its ratings.

In partnership with Microsoft, NewsGuard is trying to get its ranking installed by default in US public schools and university libraries, as well as on smartphones and computers. Hawaii is the first US state to have NewsGuard installed on computers in its public libraries.

NewsGuard says on its website that it "Will be available on mobile devices when digital platforms such as social media sites and search engines or mobile operating systems will directly add our ratings and nutrition labels." In other words, plans are underway to obtain NewsGuard integrated into social media sites like Facebook and Twitter directly, instead NewsGuard remains a downloadable application that users can choose to use or not.

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is it really so simple?

The NewsGuard application has a seemingly benign purpose; at "Restore trust and responsibility" in journalism. Sounds good, is not it? However, a closer examination of the project reveals that NewsGuard's definition of "unreliable" The news, as well as its investors, advisors and bodily partners are highly questionable.

A detailed report of MintPress claims that NewsGuard is "Funded by and deeply connected to" the United States government, while trying to maintain a public image of being an impartial and impartial arbiter of truth and reliability in the media. Contacted by RT, NewsGuard said it received "no" Government funding. Even a superficial look at its leaders, however, reveals former US government officials, including the head of the NSA and the CIA.

EXCLUSIVE: As the Newsguard Project progresses, it will soon become nearly impossible to avoid the filing systems of this neo-conservative news site on any technology device sold in the United States. @_whitneywebb

– MintPress News (@MintPressNews) January 9, 2019

NewsGuard has received much praise from mainstream media in recent months. The Boston Globe described it as a tool that "helps protect yourself against false news" TechLife hailed the founders of NewsGuard as "Guardians of the galaxy (online)."

Who is behind NewsGuard?

So who are these guardians of the truth, exactly? NewsGuard was co-founded by veteran journalist Steven Brill, founder of American Lawyer magazine, and by Louis Gordon Crovitz, former executive vice president of Dow Jones and book publisher for the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Heritage Foundation – two neoconservative think tanks strongly involved in promoting the war in Iraq.

Heritage and AEI, are bound the US defense industry and have also been involved in promoting the expansion of US military action in countries like Syria and Libya.

As noted by MintPress, Crovitz himself was charged with "Many times to deceive his facts" in his Wall Street Journal articles and even his own sources caught him off guard "Fantastically false claims."

NewsGuard also has a number of "Advisors" which could raise eyebrows. Among them are Tom Ridge, former Secretary of Homeland Security George W. Bush, Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA, and Richard Stengel, former Under-Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Barack Obama and now "Distinguished fellow" to the Atlantic Council think tank funded by US arms manufacturers Stengel admitted that some people described his former position in the State Department as if he was the "Chief Propagandist" for the US government.

Wow, here's NewsGuard's advisory board, the new favorite "anti-counterfeiting" media platform:
-CIA / NSA Director
Secretary for Homeland Security
Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy
-White House Director of Communications

– Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) January 10, 2019

Hypocrisy and MSM bias

This website, RT, received a "red" rating on NewsGuard's reliability. One of the reasons given by the application is that RT articles are usually "do not name the author." However, there are other sites of information that do not name the authors. The Economist is a well-known example of publication that does not add a signature to stories. However, when installing the application, it is easy to verify that The Economist gets a "green" rating regarding the transparency of the content creator.

NewsGuard also noted that two former hosts of RT had resigned after being dissatisfied with the editorial view of the channel, but did not mention in its MSNBC classification that several hosts in that channel had either resigned, dismissed or expelled not to adhere to its editorial line favorable to institutions.

Look at how a US government-funded website is rated according to "reliability" by the NewsGuard application to the Big Brother versus RT

Would it shock you to learn that NewsGuard has close ties with the US government? 😂

– Danielle Ryan (@DanielleRyanJ) January 10, 2019

RT asked NewsGuard to provide examples of what is called "False content" published by RT, but simply referred to the public "Nutritional label" where no clear example of fake content is available.

Then there is the bias of the mainstream media. The New York Times has a "green" note, despite incidents like 'this weekRussiagate " scoop, in which the newspaper quotes an anonymous source to assert that Paul Manafort, the former head of the Trump campaign, shared the data of a poll with "a Russian oligarch close to the Kremlin. " Of course, the Times finally released a correction – it was about two Ukrainian oligarchs – that made the bomb report a failure, but not before it became viral in circles # Resistance and cable TV channels.

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The Guardian also has a "green" rating, despite the heavy damage of a story from November, claiming that Manafort (yes, "Russiagate" again) had secretly met WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange three times in recent years. The story was belied by both protagonists who threatened to sue the newspaper for defamation. Manafort said he had never met Assange or anyone related to him, and was not even contacted by anyone related to WikiLeaks, "Directly or indirectly." However, six weeks without counting, no excuse, no retraction, no explanation.

And what about CNN? The network's obsession with President Donald Trump forced him to eat raven several times since 2016 – including retracting a story and dismiss the authors. In another case, CNN relied on an anonymous source to generate a bomb report on the Trump and WikiLeaks campaign, and then burned when the date on the email has been shown to be completely wrong. CNN NewsGuard ranking? Green, of course.

Does it make sense to trust a US government-related news evaluation application? Not according to the RT writer, Bryan MacDonald, who said that such an application "It is obvious that we will only penalize the media that threaten the official US rhetoric about events." It's inevitable that all media outlets, including RT, will sometimes make mistakes, said MacDonald – but if RT made one mistake a week and the New York Times or CNN had ten, their trust rating would be even higher. high because their report "suits the official line."

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Bill Mew, privacy activist and technology expert, said applications that rely on "a certain level of automation" and the algorithms have the "potential to be impartial" they are properly trained. If not, "there is always the risk of some form of inherent prejudice."

NewsGuard claims, however, that it is not based on algorithms, but rather on humans, using a team of real people to decipher the credibility of individual sites, which seems to make it even more susceptible to bias, not like it the pretends.

Transparency and conflicts of interest?

With its ties to the US government and the state of national security, it should already be clear that NewsGuard is not as objective as it claims, but it actually exists even more reasons to fear potential conflicts of interest. Publicis Groupe, whose clients include companies such as Merck, Pfizer, Bayer Monsanto, McDonalds and Procter & Gamble, is one of the company's largest investors.

Haha Microsoft associates with NewsGuard – whose advisory board is almost entirely composed of former members of the highest executive of US national security – to fight so-called "false information"

– Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) January 10, 2019

This makes the possibility and probability of trade bias "More than obvious and most likely guaranteed" according to Lionel, legal and media analyst. "In your opinion, what would be the chances of publishing an article that would refute the effectiveness of a sponsored article or service? None. Zip *: French. Nada, " he said.

Target alternative media

One of the most troubling aspects of NewsGuard is that it not only targets alternative news sites with their color-coded rankings, but also wants to reach them financially by targeting online revenue generated by publicity.

In association with NewsGuard, there is now "BrandGuard" which claims to help advertisers stay away from publishing sites "News and unreliable information" – but as we have seen, there are serious questions about what this application is ready to tarnish "unreliable." This full spectrum assault could have "devastating" consequences for alternative media in the West, said MacDonald.

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As for the effort to make NewsGuard mandatory, it was described as "Orwellian" by MacDonald. "Brainwashing children with pro-government or pro-elite or pro-status quo messages seems very sinister," he said.

So, with some real-life news stories and applications like NewsGuard posing a problem in their own way, how can people consume the news consciously?

"The best thing to do is to read as many sources as possible and draw your own conclusions," MacDonald advised. "One thing that the Internet era has shown is that people are not stupid, and when they have a variety of information at their disposal, they will draw their own conclusions."

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