Newsguard is a company formed by Steven Brill and Gordon Crovitz to rate websites to provide advertisers and readers who add the Newsguard browser add-on with an assessment of website journalistic credibility.

Its homepage proclaims:

“NewsGuard uses journalism to fight false news, misinformation, and disinformation. Our trained analysts, who are experienced journalists, research online news brands to help readers and viewers know which ones are trying to do legitimate journalism—and which are not.”


SAY YOU’RE SCROLLING through Facebook, see an article that seems a little hinky, and flag it. If Facebook’s algorithm has decided you’re trustworthy, the report then might go to the social network’s third-party fact checkers. If they mark the story as false, Facebook will make sure fewer people see it in the News Feed. For those who see it anyway, Facebook will surface related articles with an alternative viewpoint just below the story.

Every major platform—Twitter, YouTube, Reddit, and more—has some version of this process. But they all go about it in completely different ways, with every tech company writing its own rules and using black box algorithms to put them into practice. The patchwork nature of promoting trustworthy sources online has had the unintended consequence of seeding fears of bias.

That’s one reason why a group of journalists and media executives are launching a tool called NewsGuard, a browser plug-in for Chrome and Microsoft Edge that transcends platforms, giving trustworthiness ratings to most of the internet’s top-trafficked sites. Those ratings are based on assessments from an actual newsroom of dozens of reporters who comprise NewsGuard’s staff. They hail from a range of news organizations, including New York Daily News and GQ. Together, they’ve spent the last several months scoring thousands of news sites.

To vet the sites, they use a checklist of nine criteria that typically denote trustworthiness. Sites that don’t clearly label advertising lose points, for example. Sites that have a coherent correction policy gain points. If you install NewsGuard and browse Google, Bing, Facebook, or Twitter, you’ll see either a red or green icon next to every news source, a binary indicator of whether it meets NewsGuard’s standards. Hover over the icon, and NewsGuard offers a full “nutrition label,” with point-by-point descriptions of how it scored the site, and links to the bios of whoever scored them.

When I was contacted by Newsguard, and not having read the Wired article or knowing much about them, I was suspicious.

After all, ratings and fact-check systems have been used to malign and ban conservative websites on Facebook and Twitter, and to try to steer advertisers away. Groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center used by major social media platforms are so clearly biased and devoted to political suppression that I worried this was just another such effort.

Yet I answered their questions.

But alas, my fears were unnecessary. Newsguard did a credible job judging our credibility. We passed in all areas except for Corrections policy.

The Full Nutrition Label for a website provides more details. Here’s the key entry for us:

Stories cite credible news organizations and websites. Sources are hyperlinked within articles. Legal Insurrection does not distort facts to advance opinions and discloses its conservative perspective on an About page, leading NewsGuard to conclude that the site handles the difference between news and opinion responsibly.

Legal Insurrection does not articulate a corrections policy. Jacobson told NewsGuard in an email: “If there is a minor non-substantive correction, such as a name spelling or job title correction, we generally just make the change. More commonly, when there is additional information that puts the original story in a different context or presents an alternative view or new information, we do that as an ‘Update.’” Because the site has not issued corrections since 2016, and NewsGuard does not classify
updates as corrections, Legal Insurrection does not meet NewsGuard’s standards for regularly correcting or clarifying errors.

Headlines can be opinionated, but do not distort facts or mislead readers about the content of stories.

So we’re good to go.

But you knew that.


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