A self-styled authority on trustworthiness of news websites, Newsguard, is entering the new year by changing its business model and switching to paid subscriptions.
UK media trade publication Press Gazette writes about this noting that the US company behind Newsguard launched it in that country nine months ago as a free add-on available for major browsers.
But there was controversy almost immediately after Newsguard – whose global advisory board includes a former BBC director, Richard Sambrook, former NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales – started ranking websites in the UK. Namely, Newsguard ranked Mail Online with a red label, i.e., a news source that fails to uphold “basic standards of accuracy or accountability.”
But after a meeting with a Daily Mail executive this “authority” changed its mind, saying the original “ruling” of its self-appointed court had been a mistake.
The way Newsguard works is to give websites between 0 and 100 points based on nine criteria, such as not repeatedly publishing false content, clearly labeling ads, revealing “who is in charge,” and avoiding deceptive headlines. However, some of the criteria are much less clear-cut and too broad in a way that seems inevitable to involve opinion rather than anything measurable. For example, websites are judged for “gathering and presenting information responsibly” – but wouldn’t determining what “responsibly” refers to also have to meet a set of criteria?
Other features are now coming to the paid product, such as a mobile app and things like “a reliability score” and revealing a site’s political leaning. Paying customers will now also be able to learn not only “who’s in charge” but who owns a digital media outlet.
Early adopters will be given a 33% discount and for just under two Great British Pounds a month have Newsguard in their browser judging whether a website is peddling conspiracy theories, false information related to health, ads disguised as news and “political propaganda funded by campaigns.”
Not only is Newsguard establishing trustworthiness of others, it only works if its users trust it, too. And those who do will see red (fail) and green (pass) badges next to websites in search pages, and on social networks.