Teachers union buys subscriptions to 'misinformation' service NewsGuard for use in classrooms

"I'm really excited about this partnership with NewsGuard. Students across the country will have access to this tool to help them identify misinformation."

Libby Emmons Brooklyn NY

The American Federation of Teachers has teamed up with self-described "misinformation" combatants NewsGuard so that students can use the site for homework help or research. The AFT will be buying subscriptions to NewsGuard for 1.7 million teachers who will then be able to share it with their students.

NewsGuard, which gives ratings to news outlets and makes that information available via a paid service, claims to not be partisan or biased at all in its approach. They say that they use "trained journalists to rate news and information sites," according to Axios.

The idea is that as students do research, they will be able to check a site they are interested in sourcing against a NewsGuard rating for that site and then determine if that site is one they'd like to source.

NewsGuard identifies 9 standards by which to judge a news site. They are: "Does not repeatedly publish false content; Gathers and presents information responsibly; Regularly corrects or clarifies errors; Handles the difference between news and opinion responsibly; Avoids deceptive headlines' Website discloses ownership and financing; Clearly labels advertising; Reveals who's in charge, including any possible conflicts of interest;" and "The site provides names of content creators, along with either contact or biographical information."

CNN has a score of 80/100, Rolling Stone 77.5/100, Fox News and Daily Wire both have scores of 69.5/100, and Breitbart 49.5/100, just for a few examples. The Media Research Center has said that "NewsGuard's media credibility ratings are biased toward left-leaning news sites, as it gives left-wing outlets better trust ratings on average than right-wing sources." They reported that "Left-wing outlets saw an average rating of 93% and right-wing outlets received 66%."

AFT President Randi Weingarten is pleased about the idea, saying that "We are constantly trying to help our students, particularly our middle, high school and postsecondary students, separate fact from fiction, as we help them develop their critical-thinking and analytical skills."

In a tweet, she reiterated her glee, saying "I'm really excited about this partnership with NewsGuard. Students across the country will have access to this tool to help them identify misinformation."

NewsGuard co-founder Steven Brill compares the internet to a library where papers are flying all over the place, freed from their bindings and books. "Imagine you walked into a library," he said, "and there were a trillion pieces of paper flying around in the air, and you grabbed one, and you didn’t know anything about it, or where it came from or who’s financing it."

NewsGuard makes a point of having humans identify and classify information based on a selective set of metrics. They rate health and science sites, news sites, and also offer a service so that advertisers can "avoid advertising on misinformation sites while finding valuable new inventory on trustworthy news sites." They also tracked "misinformation" in the lead-up to the 2020 US presidential election.

Correction: An early version of this article said that NewsGuard uses AI to identify misinformation. However, as part of their "Misinformation Fingerprints" program, Matt Skibinski of NewsGuard said, clients can "buy access to our data so that they can use it to seed searches in AI tools that they use, such as social listening tools or media monitoring tools. We don't provide the AI piece, we just provide our ratings data and catalogues of known false claims in a format that's standardized/structured enough to be used in that way."


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