NewsGuard reverses decision on Mail Online credibility

Posted on February 4, 2019

 

A couple of weeks ago, Microsoft Edge’s new news credibility plug-in NewsGuard upset the applecart somewhat by awarding the Mail Online a poor rating for its credibility and transparency. Following a complaint by The Mail though, it now appears to have had a rethink.

The Mail Online website, which is the digital arm of the UK’s second best selling newspaper The Daily Mail and is one of the top 10 most viewed news sites in the world, has now been awarded a ‘green shield’ by NewsGuard. The team behind it is now satisfied that the site’s level of accountability and accuracy “generally meets basic standards”.

So what’s changed?

The plug-in, which is effectively a news authenticity detector for Microsoft’s browser Edge, originally classed the site as unreliable and non-transparent, putting it in the same bracket as fake news sites like InfoWars. Among the criticisms made of The Mail were deceptive headlines, false content and a failure to disclose who was in charge of the site.

Those three issues have now been cleared up, it seems, with NewsGuard admitting that it initially took the number of complaints about The Mail made to the International Press Standards Organisation into consideration, but did not take into account the ratio of complaints to the vast number of articles the site publishes.

So is The Mail off the hook?

Not quite. The Mail is still ranked down by NewsGuard for not revealing writers’ names, failing to differentiate between news and opinion, and not presenting stories in a responsible way. This is partly because NewsGuard believes the site is not transparent with its political stance.

Can NewsGuard learn from this?

It’s difficult to escape the notion that this incident damages NewsGuard’s own credibility. If it can jump so wildly from deciding a site is untrustworthy to being trustworthy in such a short space of time, on what basis was the original decision made?

Had it put sufficient research into its initial ranking of the Mail Online as a site with low credibility? If so, why didn’t it stand its ground when challenged by one of the big boys of UK media? Should NewsGuard itself now publish a retraction – something it marks down websites for failing to do?

To give NewsGuard some benefit of the doubt, it did say when it released the ranking that it wanted to discuss it with the Mail Online, but had not heard back. Perhaps a little more co-operation and communication between the two parties might have avoided a situation out of which neither emerges particularly well.

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