January 25, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Microsoft is the latest tech giant taking it upon itself to police so-called “fake news,” packaging an app with its mobile browser that warns users not to trust various news websites, including a number of conservative ones.
NewsGuard is an extension available for most browsers that displays a green checkmark or red exclamation point next to users’ address bar, to denote whether websites satisfy criteria “such as whether the site regularly publishes false content, reveals conflicts of interest, discloses financing, or publicly corrects reporting errors.” This is achieved by a team of “trained journalists and experienced editors,” rather than algorithms.
“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,” the NewsGuard website states.
“Our Green-Red ratings signal if a website is trying to get it right or instead has a hidden agenda or knowingly publishes falsehoods or propaganda,” it adds.
NewsGuard is a free, optional feature most users have to download for themselves if they want it, but Microsoft is now pre-installing it in mobile versions of its Microsoft Edge browser, TechCrunch reports. The warnings do not display on default, but can be activated by simply enabling News Rating in the Settings menu.
“Microsoft’s Edge experiment with NewsGuard isn’t a solution to that issue, but baking some kind of news verification tool right into the browser does feel like a step in a compelling direction,” TechCrunch’s Taylor Hatmaker writes approvingly, but others warn of ideological bias in its execution.
While some right-of-center websites, such as The Federalist and Conservative Review, receive green checkmarks, others such as The Drudge Report, The Blaze, Breitbart, and PJ Media are given warning labels. LifeSiteNews receives a warning label as well, with NewsGuard falsely claiming that this website “generally fails to maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability,” has “repeatedly misstated medical research about abortion,” and fails to “regularly correc[t] or clarif[y] errors.”
In the app’s full “Nutrition Label” for LifeSiteNews, NewsGuard Vice President of News Literacy Outreach Sarah Brandt’s primary example is that LifeSite disputes the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists’ denial of a link between abortion and breast cancer, but does not note that LifeSite and many other pro-life groups have challenged the ACOG’s credibility and impartiality on this and other subjects.
The label, which was edited by NewsGuard Vice President of Business Development Anna-Sophie Harling and Managing Editor Amy Westfeldt, also claims a “July 2018 piece headlined ‘Republican bill would stop US embassies flying gay ‘pride’ flags’ does not note that the legislation bans the flying of any flag other than the American flag.” In fact, the report in question notes exactly that in its opening sentence, and two additional times in the body of the piece.
NewsGuard does flag the left-wing Daily Kos as red, though other left-wing sites that conservatives have criticized for deceptive content, including Vox, ThinkProgress, and Rewire, are given green checkmarks. Even Media Matters for America is given a clean bill of health.
Breitbart notes that BuzzFeed News and Rolling Stone are marked trustworthy as well, despite both publications being the home of high-profile stories they were reluctant to retract even after being debunked.
“Microsoft is partnering with NewsGuard to offer the NewsGuard browser extension on Microsoft Edge, and a feature in Microsoft Edge mobile apps for iOS and Android to help our customers evaluate news sources,” a Microsoft spokesperson responded in a statement to Breitbart. Across both the browser and the apps, NewsGuard is optional and customers need to take action if they want to use the feature.”
Microsoft’s competitors Google and Apple have also come under fire for various actions to quash “fake news” on their platforms, which many conservatives argue are slanted to target responsible information and opinion that dissents from liberal orthodoxy.