ROCHESTER — Roxann Moore recently was conducting an online search at Rochester Public Library for reliable information about laws regarding immunization requirements for children.
Moore’s search was motivated by concern for her new grandson, who was soon to be discharged from an intensive care unit, and for her experiences of having her own children have adverse reactions to immunizations. She wanted reliable information she could present to her grandson’s parents.
Because of the library’s new partnership with “NewsGuard,” which is promoted as “The Internet Trust Tool,” accessing credible information became easier for Moore.
NewsGuard is a startup committed to combating “Fake News.” Jazmyn Jarrett, the library’s adult services coordinator, helped Moore conduct an online search using NewsGuard.
“I want to see what is really, really necessary by law,” Moore said. “I’m just learning about (NewsGuard) now, which is interesting because when I clicked on it, some of (the sites) said, ‘We’re not telling you who wrote the page,’ which I thought was a little odd. …
“I know the doctors always push for all of this (immunizations), and I’m just hoping that I can see where he may not need to have everything because of the way our family reacts to it. It’s not my choice. It’s the parent’s choice, but I’m hoping (to) give them a little more information, and then they work with that.”
Janet McAllister, director of Rochester Public Library, said the library has had quite a few patrons looking for more information when it comes to flu shots and other vaccines.
McAllister said: “When people come in and you hear their conversations where they’re worried about immunizations causing autism or you hear these kinds of conversations, and they’re coming up and asking for your help using the computer, and you’re seeing what they’re looking at, and it’s just like, wow, there’s so much misinformation out there, it just seemed like we just need to have something on the computers where patrons who want to know if this is a good site or not can find out that information.
“Not everything on the internet is true.”
A trust tool
Rochester Public Library is partnering with NewsGuard to provide users with tools to access the reliability of news websites through a browser extension on the library computers.
NewsGuard’s green-red ratings signal if a website is trying to get it right or instead has a hidden agenda or knowingly publishes falsehoods or propaganda, according to NewsGuard’s website, https://www.newsguardtech.com/.
A team of trained journalists monitors news websites and produce “Nutrition Labels” for each site, which serve as reviews of the credibility and transparency of the news provider. The weighted point process will have either a pass or fail rating, which will be shown with the flag icon displayed on the websites (a label with a score lower than 60 points gets a red rating).
Green-rated sites follow basic standards of accuracy and accountability. Red-rated sites do not. Gray-rated sites refer to platforms and orange-rated sites indicate satire sites, according to NewsGuard’s website.
NewsGuard’s journalists and editors review and rate news and information websites based on nine journalistic criteria: does not repeatedly publish false content; gathers and presents information responsibly; regularly corrects or clarifies errors; handles the difference between news and opinion responsibly; avoids deceptive headlines; website discloses ownership and financing; clearly labels advertising; reveals who’s in charge, including possible conflicts of interest; and the site provides the names of content creators, along with either contact or biographical information.
Based on a website’s performance on these nine criteria, it is assigned a red or green rating, indicating its credibility.
Not a censor
Libraries across the United States and the United Kingdom have installed NewsGuard on their computers to provide patrons with more context for the information they see online.
McAllister saw an article in the ILA Reporter (Illinois Library Association) about the fact that some libraries were starting to use NewsGuard. McAllister conducted research on NewsGuard.
“I looked it up to see who funds it, where is it coming from, make sure that it was a good, reliable source, also,” McAllister said. “After checking it out and actually speaking to one of their representatives and then finding out that we could put it on our computers for free, it seemed like a win-win situation for us.”
NewsGuard is on six of the public-access computers at Rochester Library, where on average 330 people per month use the computers (there’s free Wi-Fi).
Jazmyn Jarrett said she receives many questions from patrons about computers, normally about how to navigate through a browser.
“Then I kind of let them know, ‘Hey, (NewsGuard) is here to help you search. That way you know or have an idea of this website and can basically decide if you want to use that or not,’ ” Jarrett said.
Moore said NewsGuard helped her to believe that information she was seeing was credible.
McAllister said that libraries want patrons to have access to correct information.
“I want people to realize we’re not going to censor. They can get to everything,” McAllister said.
“Patron privacy is really important to us, so I just wanted to make sure that people know that NewsGuard does not track their searches or their traffic or what they’re doing. It’s really important that they know that they can search whatever they want and no one knows what they’re looking at.”
Contact Tamara Browning: email@example.com, 788-1534, twitter.com/tambrowningSJR.