Criteria for and Explanation of Ratings

A news or information website is rated green if its content is produced by people who are trying to communicate news, information, and opinion that they believe is accurate, and who adhere to practices aimed at assuring basic standards of accuracy as well as accountability.  A site is rated red if it fails to meet these minimum standards.

As explained below, NewsGuard uses 9 specific criteria to evaluate these possible points of failure. We start with the premise that a site should be green until our evaluation of the site, based on those 9 criteria, produces a red rating.

These determinations will be made through reporting by NewsGuard’s analysts, who will be experienced journalists supervised by editors with significant experience in the profession. Two analysts will independently review and assess the content and processes of each site, with any disagreements resolved by the executive editor, managing editor, and editor-in-chief. In all cases, the identities and backgrounds of the analysts reviewing the site, as well as those of the supervising editors, will be completely transparent, as will any disagreements that were discussed as the rating was determined.

It should be noted that the only attribute that sites rated green have in common is that they did not fail to meet the test of enough of the 9 criteria that they should be rated red. Not all sites rated green are equal. As our Nutrition Label write-ups will indicate, some are much fairer and more accurate in their reporting than others. Some are more transparent and accountable than others. Some are more robustly staffed and regularly produce superior content, while others struggle with tight budgets. Some focus on reporting the news, while others have a mission based on a political or other point of view that they unabashedly support. NewsGuard’s mission is not to make granular judgments but to establish and communicate adherence to basic standards in order to give readers information they need to assess their sources of information online. Again, the Nutrition Labels attempt to convey those differences, while the greenred rating provides a more basic, binary distinction. Put simply, red-rated sites fail the test of the key criteria and sometimes even all 9.

The 9 Factors

Here are the 9 criteria that NewsGuard uses in determining if a provider is rated red. A site that fails to adhere to a preponderance of these criteria will be rated red. No site must adhere to all of the criteria to be rated green.

In every case the NewsGuard Nutrition Labels that are provided for each site (by clicking on the rating) spell out the site’s adherence to each of the 9 criteria that yielded that source’s particular rating.

The 9 criteria below are listed in order of their importance in determining a red rating. For example, failure to adhere to the first criteria—publishing false content—will be more influential in determining a red rating than failure to reveal information about content creators.

Credibility

  • Doesn’t repeatedly publish false content: In the last three years the site has not produced multiple stories that have been found—either by journalists at NewsGuard or elsewhere—to be clearly false, and which have not been quickly and prominently corrected.
  • Gathers and presents information responsibly: Content on the site is created by reporters, writers, videographers, researchers, or other information providers who generally seek to be accurate and fair in gathering, reporting, and interpreting information, even if they approach their work from a strong point of view. They do this by referencing multiple sources, preferably those that present direct, first-hand information on a subject or event.
  • Regularly corrects or clarifies errors: The site makes clear how to contact those in charge and has effective practices for publishing clarifications and corrections.
  • Handles the difference between news and opinion responsibly: Content providers who convey the impression that they report news or a mix of news and opinion distinguish opinion from news reporting, and when reporting news, they do not regularly or egregiously misstate, distort, or cherry pick facts, or egregiously cherry pick stories, to advance opinions. Content providers whose clearly expressed purpose is to advance a particular point of view do not regularly and egregiously misstate or distort facts to make their case.
  • Avoids deceptive headlines: The site generally does not publish headlines that include false information, significantly sensationalize, or otherwise do not reflect what is actually in the story.

Transparency

  • Website discloses ownership and financing: The site discloses its ownership and/or financing, as well as any notable ideological or political positions held by those with a significant financial interest in the site, in a user-friendly manner.
  • Clearly labels advertising: The site makes clear which content is paid for and which is not.
  • Reveals who’s in charge: Information about those in charge of the content is made accessible on the site.
  • Provides information about content creators: Information about those producing the content is made accessible on the site.

Not Yet Rated:

If a source is not yet rated, it means that NewsGuard does not know enough about the source for it to be rated.

It could be that the source is not among the list of the top 7,500 sources of news and information that are the most used and shared by users in the United States, all of which NewsGuard will have reviewed and rated. In that case, if publishers or readers would like NewsGuard’s analysts to rate a source not yet rated, they can request to be reviewed and rated.

Or it could be that the source is currently being reviewed by NewsGuard but that our analysts have not yet gathered enough information to rate it responsibly.

No positive or negative inference should be inferred from the fact that a source has not yet been rated.