Will This Rating Platform Really Protect Your Brand From Fake News?

Backed by both journalists and AI, NewsGuard counts Publicis Groupe as an investor

NewsGuard will use green, yellow and red symbols as part of its ratings system. Sources: Getty Images
Headshot of Chris Ariens

For their next act, media entrepreneurs Steven Brill and Gordon Crovitz are taking on the curse of fake news.

Their new platform, NewsGuard, will use both human beings and artificial intelligence to review the 7,500 most-read news and information websites in the U.S.—about 98 percent of news and information people read and share online. Brill and Crovitz promise that NewsGuard will be up and running by the midterm elections with a plan for international expansion.

The platform will deliver color-coded ratings: green, yellow, or red. (Additionally, news that hasn’t yet been rated will be labeled as such.) Additionally, the site will provide “Nutrition Label” write-ups of each of the sources. Think of it as the Rotten Tomatoes of news.

“Our goal is to help solve this problem now by using experienced journalists—who will operate under a transparent, accountable process to apply basic common sense to a growing scourge that clearly cannot be solved by algorithms,” explained Brill, founder of The American Lawyer, Court TV, and Brill’s Content magazine.

“We are not going to make granular judgments about political leanings,” added Crovitz, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal editorial page and the former publisher of the WSJ. “In addition to alerting people of fake news, one of our key goals is to help consumers, including young people, know when to take news from certain sites with a grain of salt. “

Brill and Crovitz, who are the lead investors, have raised $6 million from 16 other investors, including agency holding company Publicis Groupe.

“For us, NewsGuard is highly appealing because it’s a concrete, actionable answer to our clients’ concerns,” said Publicis Groupe Chairman Maurice Levy. “Advertisers care about the quality and credibility of the brands they support, and we are delighted to be the lead investor in NewsGuard as a key part of the solution to the crisis of fake news.”

Advertisers are increasingly cutting their marketing budgets across news sites, with brand safety being a major concern.

“NewsGuard will be able to publish and license ‘white lists’ of news sites our clients can use to support legitimate publishers while still protecting their brand reputations,” Levy said.

How it will work

Two NewsGuard analysts will independently review and rate each site or online publication. One will then draft the Nutrition Label; the other will edit it. The labels will explain the history of the site, what it covers, who owns it, and who edits it.

Any disagreements between the two analysts reviewing each site will be resolved by NewsGuard’s senior editorial officers, who will include co-founders Brill and Crovitz, as well as executive editor James Warren, the former Chicago Tribune Washington Bureau Chief, and managing editor Eric Effron, former legal editor at Reuters and Executive Editor of The Week.

All sites receiving a yellow or red rating will be asked to comment on the rating, and their comments will be reported in the Nutrition Label. The ratings and Nutrition Labels will constantly be subject to change.

There will also be a “RateMe” link enabling smaller and newer sites to request a rating.

Crovitz said NewsGuard will use artificial intelligence to identify new news brands and to “find sites that try to play Whack-a-Mole with us by using multiple sites to evade a rating that we gave to the same or similar content.”

@ChrisAriens chris.ariens@adweek.com Chris Ariens is the managing editor and director of video at Adweek.