If you've been reading my website and newsletter for a while, you'll know that I endeavour to be as transparent as possible. For example, affiliate links are made clear, and if I review books I've been sent, or events for which I've been given free tickets, I state that that's the case -- so that if I wax lyrical about something, readers know the praise is genuine. But, to quote Mandy Rice-Davies, I would say that, wouldn't I? Therefore I submitted the website to an organisation called Newsguard. This would enable me to achieve two things: test Newsguard – because I like to try resources out before writing about them --, and find out just how transparent my website appears to others.
Newsguard is a service that rates websites for honesty, transparency and trustworthiness. I first learnt about them from a conference on fake news, by the Westminster Forum, for which I received a complimentary ticket. Newsguard evaluates websites against several criteria, such as whether information is gathered and presented responsibly. This is important, because one trick that some bloggers and websites use to raise the number of visitors to their sites is to publish information which may or may not be correct, in order to be first with the news. If it turns out to be wrong, so much the better, because they can then publish a correction, thereby generating even more page views. In my opinion, this is fundamentally unethical. Rushing into "print" regardless of factual accuracy or the possibly dreadful effects inaccurate reporting might have is simply wrong.
See this website for the full list of Newsguard's criteria: https://www.newsguardtech.com/ratings/rating-process-criteria/.
I wrote about Newsguard in Quick Looks: Trust me, I'm lying, but here's the gist. Rather than rely on computer algorithms to evaluate websites, they use a team of journalists.
The process is very interesting. I submitted the URL of my website, and waited. After a week or so, one of their journalists contacted me to clarify some issues. I found the questions he asked me very incisive, and helped me to make the website even better. For example, he asked if I update articles when necessary. Yes I do, but have not always indicated that I've done so. Now I do, unless I've only corrected a typo. He also asked if guest writers on the site are named. The answer is yes, always. However, I hadn't stated that explicitly on the front page of the blog (www.ictineducation.org/articles). Now I have done so. I also made similar changes to my other website – www.writersknowhow.org.
Once Newsguard have evaluated a website, they give it a rating in the form of a coloured shield. Green means there are more good aspects than bad, but you have to click on the shield to reveal which criteria the site has met, and which ones it hasn't.
As one would hope, Newsguard is itself transparent when it reviews a website. It includes evidence of how it reached its conclusions, and the names and contact details of the journalists involved. Moreover, when I discovered that a statement they'd made about my website was incorrect, because I hadn't explained something clearly enough, they corrected it immediately.
If you install one of the Newsguard browser extensions, you can reduce the prospects of inadvertently imbibing fake news or bias. This is because if a website has been rated, its shield will appear in the search results as well as on the website itself, as you can see in the screenshot at the top of this article. This is useful because if your pupils undertake a search on a topic, and discover several websites, the presence of a Newsguard shield will help them to know which of those websites (if any) can be trusted.
You could also have the pupils look at websites that have a red shield, and ask them if they can spot where the website fell down. They can then check their theories by clicking on the shield on the website. And of course they might use the Newsguard criteria to carry out their own evaluations.
What of satire? If a satirical website has gone through the Newsguard process, its shield will be orange. Clicking on the shield will reveal the fact that it's not a news site, but a satire or humour website.
And the evaluation of the ICT and Computing in Education website? All of the Newsguard criteria were met (see screenshot below). Therefore, the ICT and Computing in Education website is trustworthy -- and that's official!
This article first appeared in the Digital Education newsletter.