A new study out Friday revealed that even researchers from New York University could find no benefits that NewsGuard, a popular pro-censorship browser extension, offered to consumers’ ability to identify misinformation while successfully directing readers to other sites deemed credible by the agency’s censors.
A team of academics at New York University’s (NYU) Center for Social Media and Politics studied the news rating agency with a survey of more than 3,000 participants that downloaded the extension. The researchers found readers with “high-quality” news diets in line with NewsGuard’s ratings were no more likely to answer questions related to the Black Lives Matter movement or Covid-19 accurately than those who otherwise relied on “lower-quality” sources.
All respondents were asked to “judge the veracity of five widely circulated statements” across the two topics, where three were false and two were true. NewGuard’s intervention, however, “had no effect on belief in misinformation about the BLM movement and COVID-19, and it did not measurably affect belief in the true statements.”
NewsGuard may have had a limited impact on some user traffic to websites deemed unreliable by the news rating agency, however, implementing a social credit system in the information sphere. While researchers did “not find that randomized exposure to in-browser source reliability information shifts online consumption of news away from unreliable publishers,” they found “suggestive evidence of a substantively meaningful boost in news quality among the heaviest consumers of misinformation.”
NewsGuard’s credibility scores remain subjective, reliant on “trained journalists” who’ve deemed dissident views unacceptable. Websites declared unreliable include organizations that correctly reported on the biggest scandal of the 2020 election, the Hunter Biden laptop, while groups that dismissed the story as Russian disinformation maintain perfect ratings. Politico, NPR, and The New York Times maintain a 100/100 favorability score on their “nutrition label” while CBS comes in 95/100, docked five points for merely concealing author names on select pieces. The New York Post, on the other hand, suffers a failing grade of 69.5/100, and The Federalist comes in even lower at 12.5/100.
NewsGuard is being promoted in schools as a means of media literacy despite the service downranking websites found more reliable than legacy institutions on major stories, from the Hunter Biden laptop to cooked-up stories of 2016 Russian collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, for which The New York Times and The Washington Post won Pulitzers.
Partners of the news rating agency include the Department of Defense, the World Health Organization (WHO), and Microsoft.