Add a fake news detector to your browser to alert you to problems

Fake news has always been around and on the internet, even before President Trump began using the phrase, so which news sources can you trust online? This web browser extension knows.

One of the best features of the internet is that anyone can publish anything and all they need to do is create a website and start posting. It is also one of the worst features and it is just as easy to post junk, nonsense and fake information as it is to post accurate and well researched true information. In fact, it is easier to post fake information because you don’t even need to research it and check the facts.

As a user of the internet, how do you distinguish real information from the fake stuff? Fake news stories can look very real and can be very convincing. Many people have their favourite news sources, but they may be just a reflection of your beliefs feeding you false facts rather than sources of accurate and true information. We may be being misled by the sites we visit and trust.

Sorting out the good news sources from the bad ones is difficult because you cannot fact check every news story you come across on the internet. The best solution is to find and use good and reliable news sources – sites you know work hard to present accurate information.

NewsGuard is a group of trained journalists who realised the problem and set up a service to highlight the good, the bad and the ugly in terms of news sources on the web.

NewsGuard anlyses news websites and looks at several credibility and transparency issues to determine whether they are reliable sources of accurate and true information. This is then made available to you in Google and Bing searches and when visiting websites. You can instantly see whether a site is good, bad or should be avoided.

Get the NewsGuard extension

NewsGuard is available for all the major browsers as an extension and this means that it will work on Windows PC, Apple Mac and Linux PCs. No matter what computer, OS or browser you use, install the extension.

NewsGuard Chrome extension
NewsGuard is available for all popular web browsers

Site reviews in search results

After installing the NewsGuard extension, go to Google or Bing and search for ‘news’. Websites that are sources of news have a badge next to them and a green tick means they are reliable sources of news with good standards of journalism. A grey icon means that a website has not yet been evaluated and the extension has no opinion on it.

NewsGuard Chrome extension indicates good news sites in Google search results
Reputable news sites are indicated by the green badge

Move the mouse over an icon next to a search result, there is no need to click it, and a panel appears containing information about the website. There are general comments at the top and below are the criteria that were analysed and whether the site passes or fails them. Here is a site that passed them all.

NewsGuard Chrome Extension showing information on a news website in search results
NewsGuard report on a news website

The reports on websites are not like traffic lights and either true or false, and some sites can get some things right but others wrong. Here is an example of a site where the extension recommends you proceed with caution.

NewsGuard Chrome extension showing an unreliable news site in search results
NewsGuard report on a news website

Check the site for problems

You probably have already found out which websites you like and regularly visit for news and you may visit them directly by typing in the URL or by clicking a bookmark. When you are on a site, the icon in the toolbar changes to indicate whether it is a good or bad site.

NewsGuard Chrome Extension showing information on a news website
NewsGuard showing information on a news website

The icon does not tell the whole story and by clicking it you can see a full report. This website is mostly good, but not perfect and it has scored three red crosses. Bear in mind the points it failed on when reading stories on the site.

One final example, in case you were not aware, websites like The Onion are not really news sites. They just look like a news site.

NewsGuard Edge extension showing information in search results from Bing
This ‘news’ site is just for fun

Should you trust NewsGuard?

Is NewsGuard perfect? No. One problem is that there are many sites it has not yet reviewed and there are simply too many news sources to check. Over time, more sites will be reviewed and rated, so this situation will only get better in the future.

Another problem is that you may not agree with all of its ratings and some reviews of the extension claim it is biased, wrong, misleading and so on. It tries hard not to be.

Whether you like it may depend on your own beliefs, biases and political persuasion. To take an extreme example, if you believe that a conspiracy theory website is true and accurate and is blowing the lid on government, big pharma, GMO or global warming cover-ups, you aren’t going to like NewsGuard’s opinion that it is an unreliable news source and has false information.

NewsGuard is not perfect, but it is still a great extension and is recommended.