Liberal website ratings firm NewsGuard has expanded its partnership with Microsoft in order to spread “news literacy.”
NewsGuard describes itself as a company that provides “credibility ratings” and detailed “Nutrition Labels” on news and information websites across the internet. The online gatekeeper company, which allegedly determines whether news and information sources are worth reading, announced multiple changes to its partnership with Microsoft in its May 14 blog.
The blog summarized that its updated agreement “Expands News Literacy Sponsorship, Provides All Users of Microsoft Edge Browser Free Access to NewsGuard’s Ratings and Nutrition Labels, and Delivers Data to Bing Search Engine.”
For NewsGuard, a company that claims to provide ratings and labels “for thousands of news and information websites that account for 95% of online engagement” across the Western world, the agreement could have massive implications:
Microsoft will continue to sponsor NewsGuard’s news literacy program—through which more than 700 libraries provide NewsGuard to their more than seven million patrons in the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy—and will expand the program into new countries, including Australia and Canada, which NewsGuard plans to serve later this year.
NewsGuard co-CEO Gordon Crovitz wrote that “We are delighted to be able to expand our relationship with Microsoft.” He went on to explain how he sees this partnership as critical for answering the problems of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The internet has empowered people around the world with unprecedented access to information,” stated Crovitz, “but the internet has also made it easier than ever for misinformation to spread, including health care hoaxes about COVID-19.”
Co-CEO Steven Brill chimed in that “We’re grateful for the opportunity to work with Microsoft to arm its customers with NewsGuard ratings and Nutrition Labels to help them know the difference between generally reliable sources of news and information and generally unreliable sources.” He specified that “With the exponential spread of unreliable healthcare hoaxes found online next to reliable sources, consumers need this information more than ever.” Brill has reportedly given four times more money to Democrats than to Republicans, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
NewsGuard has a history of political partisanship. It has slimed figures like Rush Limbaugh and mischaracterized a post on Limbaugh's Facebook page. NewsGuard highlighted “a link to Limbaugh’s site with false claims that the coronavirus was created in a lab as a bioweapon and that it is similar to the common cold.” NewsGuard was neither accurate about what he actually said, nor even the date of the post.
Back in 2018, Microsoft first announced its partnership with NewsGuard, “which will empower voters by providing them with high-quality information about the integrity and transparency of online news sites.”
“NewsGuard employs journalists to rate each site based on nine apolitical criteria of journalistic practice, including whether a site repeatedly publishes false content, whether it regularly corrects or clarifies errors, and whether it avoids deceptive headlines,” according to the May 14 blog. “Based on the criteria, each site receives a trust score of 0-100 and an overall rating of ‘Green,’ indicating the site is generally reliable, or ‘Red,’ indicating that it is not reliable.”
The blog also announced that NewsGuard has a whole lineup of international elites from security officials to politicians to oversee its “global advisory board”:
Gen. Michael Hayden, former Director of the CIA and National Security Agency; Anders Fogh Rasmussen, former Prime Minister of Denmark and former Secretary General of NATO; Tom Ridge, the first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security; Arne Duncan, former U.S. Secretary of Education; and Ed Vaizey, former Member of British Parliament and former Minister of Culture and Digital.