Fake news or legit? Richland County Library System offers new vetting system

Fake news or legit? Richland County Library System offers new vetting system

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The Richland Library System is working to combat the spread of misinformation deemed “fake news” by rolling out a resource that helps news consumers do their due diligence.

NewsGuard technology was launched in 2018 by a media entrepreneur and former Wall Street Journal publisher. It aims to alert readers of news sources and outlets it deems reliable, unreliable, search platforms and satirical sites.

According to its creators, it establishes a “nutrition label” for thousands of news and information websites, including social media platforms.

The library system first rolled out the program earlier this year but is encouraging visitors to use the technology ahead of local and national elections.

“We do kind of get into these silos where we watch certain types of news, read certain types of news and we always think, we just think that’s the best place to get my news, maybe it’s not,” said Chantal Wilson with Richland Library.

Once the browser extension is installed, users can go to any search engine to look up information. Once you receive the results, each outlet will have a shield next to its name. By hovering over the shield, readers will be able to see the rating given to the source by NewsGuard, a team of journalists with various backgrounds.

Some of the criteria used to determine whether a site is credible or not include whether it repeatedly publishes false content, gathers and presents information responsibly, regularly corrects or clarifies errors, handles the difference between news and opinion responsibly and avoids deceptive headlines. It also examines transparency issues including whether the website discloses ownership and financing, clearly labels its advertising, reveals who is in charge, including any possible conflicts of interest and whether the site provides names of content creators.

“A lot of the times, especially on Facebook, friends, and family will share articles with me about people dying, or say, ‘this isn’t news’ and I always look to see if it’s a credible website or is this a rumor that’s getting spread around or something somebody made up,” said one library user.

“I think fake news is a big problem now especially with social media, anyone can write a blog or do anything and not have credit to back it up,” said Patrick Rowe. “I definitely think it’s tossed around in more ways than one, tossed around to discredit something that could actually be credible so I think there should be some safeguards around it for sure.”

Last year, the library said more than 500,000 computer sessions were utilized across the system and it hopes people continue to explore using the technology.

It is also available for download on personal computers and devices.

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