According to the Knight Foundation, around 43 percent of all Americans no longer trust the media. Another 66 percent don’t believe in the media’s ability to write “the facts” anymore, and the overwhelming majority agree that “fake news” severely impacts the quality of American journalism.
Now, here’s the problem: all of that lack of trust opens up a very big market for “white knight” companies who want to step in and tell you what to trust. Publishing giants like Snopes and Web of Trust make a small fortune debunking anything they perceive as fake news. That would be fine – except they don’t always base their decisions on facts.
When you have a site that gains a reputation for fact-checking, yet no one is fact-checking the fact-checker, it creates a situation where they have free reign to hand down judgement at will. Instead of labeling the true fake news media outlets as fake and calling it a day, they take payoffs to harshly judge any non-conformist views.
The worst part?
You never know the difference unless you really dig in deep.
The growing concern about “fact checkers” is exactly why we’re talking to you here today. Recently, we learned that a new fact-checking plugin in development for Chrome; called NewsGuard, its main role is to warn you when you come across fake news. We’re concerned – and you should be, too. Here’s why.
- NewsGuard claims to use nine independent markers for determining truthfulness, including whether or not sites repeatedly publish known fake news and if sites are responsible in the way they share information.
- For a positive reading, sites must also demonstrate transparency by disclosing its information regarding ownership, financing, advertising, site leadership and content creator relationships. Sounds great, right? After all, bias often comes from the fact that site leaders are inherently biased themselves.
- Well, here’s the problem. By the site’s rules, it wouldn’t even qualify as safe and trusted. In fact, they outright refused to disclose the size of their revenue to the Securities and Exchange Commission on Form D, which they filed this year.
- Further on down in the form it becomes clear they also claimed a Rule 506(b) exemption. According to the SEC, this means they have the right to, “raise an unlimited amount of money” from an “unlimited number of investors.”
- Smelling fishy, yet? If not, it surely will in a second. Mercola reports they are backed by a long list of companies involved in the tobacco, junk food and chemical industries.
- Suddenly, it all starts to make sense. Build a fact checker website, make it seem transparent and honest. Gain the trust of Americans and along with it, the ability to tell virtually anyone what they should believe when they read information online.
- “Well,” you’re thinking. “I take anything I read with a grain of salt, so this doesn’t apply to me.” Think again! NewsGuard’s support from major companies and industries essentially gives them enough sway and clout to make punishing company competitors a full-time job.
- It isn’t so much that you need to worry about relying on them for information. It’s the fact that some companies may use the information from this “fact checking site” and others to permanently ban sites from the search engines altogether.
- What does this mean for you? Essentially, it removes your ability to decide what you want to read. Instead of having the right to choose and make up your own mind, NewsGuard (and indirectly, the search engines), will ultimately make that decision for you. And that’s just not okay.
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