In a world where the term “Fake News” has become a catch phrase and conspiracy theories thrive, there’s one company trying to set online news consumers straight.

NewsGuard is an Internet browser extension launched in March 2018 with one goal in mind: to fight misinformation and help give readers and viewers a better picture of which online news brands they can rely on, and which they can’t.

Macaela Bennett is a Senior Analyst and Director of New Literacy Partnerships at NewsGuard based out of New York City.  Thursday evening, August 29 Bennett spoke to a group of people interested in learning about NewsGuard and why it’s important at the Germantown Hills Branch of the Illinois Prairie District Public Library.

Bennett said it is not uncommon to be perusing the internet and come across a headline that catches our attention--it happens a lot, especially on social media. Many times those articles look legitimate and the reader doesn’t question the source, or maybe they just don’t have the time to fact check the information. 

NewsGuard was founded to do the fact-checking for you. Trained analysts, who are all journalists, research popular online news websites and then give them a rating based on nine journalistic standards of credibility and transparency. 

Just as we tend to read nutritional labels before we eat something, NewsGuard provides consumers with a review, or what they call a “nutritional label” for those websites.

“The point of NewsGuard is not to tell you to read or not to read something, but it’s just to give you that information,” said Bennett. “Before you ingest (the news) maybe you should know a little bit of information on what’s inside of it.”

Bennett explained that the “nutritional labels” are written by teams of people. TMZ, for example, had at least five researchers, all from diverse backgrounds, and they all checked one another. 

“We aim to be just as transparent, if not more transparent than our expectations for websites,” she stressed. “If you want to see whether or not we say a website gathers and presents information responsibly, we have an entire section where you can read probably way too much about it…we lay out our entire logic for why or why not.”

Bennett also said if readers have a problem or a question with NewsGuard’s information, they are welcome to contact them with their concerns. If a website is not given a high rating, editors from the website can correct the concerns NewsGuard highlighted and ask for another review.

“These reviews are constantly being updated,” said Bennett.

According to its website, NewsGuard has provided reviews of more than 2,000 news and information sites that account for 96 percent of online engagement in the U.S. To read these reviews, go to www.newsguardtech.com, and simply download the free extension on your browser--Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer and Edge are the most common--and then hover over its icon which will appear in search results and social media feeds next to links for sites rated by NewsGuard. NewsGuard is also available on mobile devices through Microsoft Edge.  

Library patrons will have the chance to check out this feature as well. Beginning September 3, all IPDPL computers have the new extension added to the Google Chrome browser.