The second largest teachers union in the US, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), is partnering with NewsGuard, a company whose business is to rate news sites for “misinformation.” The partnership will allow tens of millions of public school students access to the service.
NewsGuard will provide access through a browser extension, and the AFT is touting this as a way to introduce news literacy among students and educators and help them identify misinformation on the internet.
Students will be encouraged to use what NewsGuard considers quality content, as “misinformation and disinformation” news sources are filtered out; according to the AFT, this is what will help students develop critical thinking and analytical skills.
NewsGuard – founded in 2018, just as the misinformation panic was picking up steam – says it employs journalists who review and then rate news sites, publishing their opinion about the trustworthiness of a source based on a number of criteria.
In addition, NewsGuard licenses its products that include something called Nutrition Labels (journalistic standards of credibility and transparency, as the company determines them) to online platforms, news aggregators and education companies.
NewsGuard’s ultimate purpose is to decide on the credibility of news websites and search engines results. The license costs $2.95 per month if the extension is used on Chrome, Safari, or Firefox, while it’s free on Edge because of a licensing deal with Microsoft.
NewsGuard is also happy to provide its ratings for free to hundreds of public libraries around the world, and the AFT has secured the same terms for 1.7 million of its members, tens of millions of students, and even members of their families. NewsGuard’s labels, positive or negative, will appear each time news and information search is performed with the browser extension active.
In a statement, the AFT praised NewsGuard as a leading “anti-misinformation tool,” and believes that the use of the service will teach students “media literacy” while protecting them from what AFT President Randi Weingarten described in dramatic language as “an ocean of online dishonesty.”
The answer to “the dark depths of the internet” and its “fetid waters” – Weingarten continued – is NewsGuard, which “uplifts” trustworthy news sources and effectively undermines those it believes are spreading misinformation.