WASHINGTON—The American Federation of Teachers has launched a national partnership with a leading anti-misinformation tool NewsGuard to protect and champion legitimate journalism and fact-based reporting and to help educators and their students navigate a sea of online disinformation.
Under the terms of the pathbreaking licensing agreement, coinciding with National News Literacy Week, the AFT’s 1.7 million members, tens of millions of kids they teach, and their families, can now receive free, real-time “traffic light” news ratings and detailed “Nutrition Label” reviews, via a licensed copy of NewsGuard’s browser extension, whenever they search the web for news and information.
For years, educators have fought battles against suspect sourcing, with their students often misled by dubious outlets and spam sites posing as “news.” NewsGuard offers a practical solution, alerting students and educators to those sites while also providing a valuable lesson in media literacy.
Students and their teachers will be able to see how NewsGuard applies nine criteria of journalistic practice to thousands of websites and will get an immediate read on the truthfulness and rigor of the information they encounter when searching online. Educators can sign up here.
AFT President Randi Weingarten hailed the deal as a game-changer for teachers and families drowning in an ocean of online dishonesty: “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.
“NewsGuard is a great tool in this regard. It is a beacon of clarity to expose the dark depths of the internet and uplift those outlets committed to truth and honesty rather than falsehoods and fabrications. This historic deal will not only help us steer clear of increasingly fetid waters—it will provide a valuable lesson in media literacy and a discussion point for teachers in class on what can, and can’t, be trusted.”
Founded in 2018 by leading entrepreneur and award-winning journalist Steven Brill and former Wall Street Journal publisher Gordon Crovitz, NewsGuard rates the more than 7,500 news and information websites that account for 95 percent of online engagement with news in the United States, Canada, the U.K., France, Germany and Italy. Each site is evaluated by NewsGuard’s team of trained journalists, who evaluate the site using nine basic, apolitical criteria of journalistic practice.
NewsGuard rates each site based on the nine criteria of journalistic practice, including whether a site repeatedly publishes false content, whether it regularly corrects or clarifies errors, whether it avoids deceptive headlines, and whether it discloses who owns and is financing the website.
It awards weighted points for each criterion and sums them up; a score of less than 60 earns a “Red” rating, while a score of 60 and above earns a “Green” rating, which indicates it is generally reliable. Each rating is explained in a detailed “Nutrition Label” review that provides background on the source and says why it passed or failed each of the nine criteria.
Brill said: “This partnership with the AFT greatly accelerates our news literacy efforts at exactly the right time. We’ve been able to get our news reliability ratings tool into more than 800 public libraries, where 7 million public library patrons use NewsGuard when they go to the library for their broadband access. And we’re already being used in dozens of public schools and universities, as well as independent schools.
“In one school, a social studies teacher recently told us that his students use NewsGuard as a verb, meaning that when they see something online, they ‘NewsGuard’ it. But that progress has largely been by word of mouth.
“Now, with the AFT arranging for all of its member-educators to have free access to NewsGuard—at a time when misinformation is such a growing threat to public health and our democracy—millions more of America’s students will also be ‘NewsGuarding’ it. Everyone should appreciate the AFT’s leadership.”
“The hallmark of good journalism is fair, richly sourced reporting that gives citizens an insight into how the world works,” Weingarten said. “Sadly, the foundational role of the fourth estate is in danger of being poisoned by torrents of trash. NewsGuard reminds us of the importance of an independent press that students can rely on to form their own views and opinions so they can participate as active citizens in our democracy.”
Through this partnership, all AFT members will be able to request access codes to enable their students, colleagues and families to use NewsGuard’s tool at no cost. AFT members looking to start using NewsGuard today can fill out the form at this site.
NewsGuard’s ratings and Nutrition Labels can be licensed by internet service providers, browsers, news aggregators, education companies, and social media and search platforms to make NewsGuard’s information about news websites available to their users.
NewsGuard products include NewsGuard, HealthGuard, BrandGuard—which helps marketers concerned about their brand safety—and the Misinformation Fingerprints catalog of top hoaxes.
BrandGuard helps marketers concerned about their brand inadvertently helping to finance misinformation by enabling them to place their ads on “inclusion lists” of legitimate news sites while keeping them off hoax sites.
Consumers can access these ratings by purchasing a subscription to NewsGuard, which costs $2.95/month and includes access to NewsGuard’s browser extension for Chrome, Safari and Firefox and its mobile app for iOS and Android. The extension is available for free on Microsoft’s Edge browser through a license agreement with Microsoft.
Hundreds of public libraries globally receive free access to use NewsGuard’s browser extension on their public-access computers to give their patrons more context for the news they encounter online. For more information, including to download the browser extension and review the ratings process, visit newsguardtech.com.