It’s much too easy to publish false stories in the age of the internet, and unfortunately too many people still say “I saw it on the internet, so it must be true,” so on Monday two entrepreneurs announced a plan to fix the “broken internet.”
It’s a good idea. And media entrepreneurs Steven Brill and Gordon Crovitz have great intentions. But not even the $6 million they raised with help from investor Publicis Groupe to launch NewsGuard can aid this crusade without the buy-in of Google, Bing, Facebook, Twitter and other big sites.
It's like so many other projects that take a chain of companies to pull together rather than go it alone.
NewsGuard aims to address fake news by hiring dozens of journalists to review 7,500 U.S. news and information web sites that are most commonly accessed. The fledgling enterprise wants to solve the problem of ridding the Internet of fake news.
The details are sketchy. Reports tout the efforts, but I believe much of the information that will make this work is missing.
Even with The Wall Street Journal detailing NewsGuard’s business model to charge the digital platforms so users can access the ratings and nutrition labels and to charge advertisers to keep their ads off fake news and propaganda sites, the plan still needs the buy-in of Google, Bing and others for it to become successful. NewsGuard said it won’t charge publishers for their rating and will make a free version available to individuals and news-literacy groups.
Publishers will be rated with green, yellow or red tags to identify the news source. But what good will this be unless those ratings appear in search results or next to the headline in a Facebook feed?
What publisher will agree to put a less-than-stellar rating on its web site? If not on the web site, the search engines will need to agree to add the rating in search results next to the listing.
Search Insider reached out to Google for comment and did not get a response.
And what will NewsGuard rely on for accuracy? Journalistic reviewers, according to the company. No details have been shared on the type of checklist they will follow. Perhaps we’ll see a web site with a list of sites and colored tags, which would work well, but it would work even better if the company could convince Google and crew to join their crusade rather than each of them going it alone.
NewsGuard not only needs the support of the engines to make this work, but CNN reports that the startup needs to get the tech giants to purchase their data. Then they must match that data against searches.
To me, the missing key is having the rating appear within the search results on Bing and Google. Otherwise, the efforts are only half complete.