NewsGuard fights war against misinformation by enlisting millions of home-bound students

Thinking of sharing that news article about a political candidate or COVID-19 on social media? Tens of millions of teachers and students are watching you.

In recent weeks, NewsGuard, the internet news watchdog service, has been escalating its battle against misinformation by opening a Coronavirus Misinformation Tracking Center and offering its service for free to all internet users until July 1. 

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NewsGuard is a desktop browser extension that displays credibility and transparency content scoring and is available by subscription. It launched in August of 2018 and typically costs $2.95 per month for a desktop user.

NewsGuard and its accompanying browser extension provide users with the ability to make informed determinations about the quality of where they obtain their news -- particularly as it relates to a content source's political biases. 

Users of Microsoft's Edge for iOS and Android have also enjoyed entirely free use of NewsGuard's service due to the Redmond software giant licensing the platform for its mobile browser. Now, the NYC-based company has enlisted tens of millions of students enrolled on the TurnItIn platform to act as citizen fact-checkers.

Turnitin's products are used by over 34 million students in over 15,000 secondary and higher education institutions in 140 countries to support academic integrity, check for text similarity, verify authorship, and support teachers and students in developing original thinking skills. Those original research and writing skills include not only how to properly use and cite works but also how to evaluate the credibility of sources.

"Now more than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that students and educators can rely on accurate information from their sources," said Valerie Schreiner, chief product officer at Turnitin. "Turnitin has always been committed to promoting integrity in research and writing. By working with NewsGuard, we now deepen that commitment by also offering our students and teachers a tool to help evaluate the integrity of the sources they are using. Our services are a perfect match."

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An example of a "Red" site when viewed in the NewsGuard extension.

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"Media literacy skills are essential to a healthy democracy, but research shows us that students worldwide are lacking in these abilities," said Sarah Brandt, vice president of News Literacy Programs at NewsGuard. "By teaching students early how to assess the reliability of sources, and spot those that might be trying to deceive them, we can go a long way toward maintaining trust in media, institutions, and one another."

Thousands of sites that are rated in NewsGuard's database are evaluated on a multi-point system for both credibility and transparency. Websites that are considered to be reliable sources of information are labeled with green checks. These clickable green checkmarks appear in the browser near the URL field and are also displayed in-line with web content, such as within Facebook and even on Google News and other major news aggregators. 

Websites evaluated by NewsGuard have a full "nutrition label," which can be viewed and contain additional information about the news source and links to information about the journalists who authored and edited the entry.

So, if you decide to share that article on Facebook or Twitter about COVID-19 or a candidate supporting (or opposing) your political views, don't be surprised if a student or a teacher in your social media sphere points out that the site it originates from fails to meet fair criteria for credibility and transparency.