The release of fake news is only expected to get worse as November midterms approach. In fact, as of March 2018, 52 percent of people agree that there are online news sources regularly publishing false content. Fortunately, a new tool founded and run by journalists has launched just in time. Here’s what communications pros need to know about how NewsGuard, a fake news-fighting tool, could affect and protect their brands. 

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NewsGuard ranks ABC News with a green rating

Getting a diagnosis 

Just like we keep track of our diets, NewsGuard wants us to see clearly what kind of information we’re consuming. Their team of journalists rate and produce “nutrition-style” labels for the news and information websites that account for 98 percent of engagement online. The goal of this credibility rating, based on a list of nine criteria, is to help users understand whether they can trust a source for content.

The criteria includes factors that evaluate the both the credibility and transparency of a website. Credibility vetting examines if the website publishes false content and if it does, whether it quickly corrects it. It also takes into account if deceptive headlines are used.

Evaluation of transparency involves understanding who’s in charge, including the ownership and financing of the website as well as who is actually creating the content.

 

What brands need to know

“Brands can look at NewsGuard’s list of nine criteria and make sure they are in compliance,” said co-CEO Gordon Crovitz, a former journalist and publisher. “This traditional journalistic criteria is used for every website we evaluate and applied equally across the board.” 

 

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Mayo Clinic, a brand that provides trusted health news, has a green rating from NewsGuard

 

NewsGuard marks sites using a visible red, yellow or green indicator. The key to their diagnosis: human-powered fact checking — something Crovitz has recognized is indispensable to their process.

“The problem with fake news sites is that they’re designed to look like real news sites,” said Crovitz. “What we’ve introduced with our journalists-as-analysts is the opposite of an algorithm. It takes a human to report these discrepancies and give people the information they need.”

For advertisers on fake news patrol, NewsGuard offers a paid subscription to a “white list” of legitimate news publishers. By subscribing to this list, advertisers concerned about their brand’s safety can keep their ads off of inappropriate sites. The best part? The list updates in real time to reflect and rate newly added websites.

 

What this means for communicators

So what does a tool like NewsGuard mean for PR, marketing and communication pros? Fighting fake news is an important part of maintaining a brand’s reputation, and while there are tips to keep your brand safe in the era of fake news, NewsGuard offers a proactive solution.

“We now realize that we have fundamental information that can be of use for communication professionals. With this tool, you can give brands context about the credibility of a site that has written about them, even if your company or client has never heard of the site. This is particularly important if the page is not a reliable source of news,” said Crovitz.

Looking ahead to your communication goals, if you want to “know thy enemy” and crack down on fake news, make sure you have the right resources to help your brand remain transparent and accountable.

You can use NewsGuard by installing a free browser plug-in, which is available to download. For more information about how to keep your brand secure and fight fake news, check out this video: