NewsGuard browser plug-in claims to certify “real news” despite biased board of directors with history of deception and lies
01/31/2019 // Tracey Watson // Views

With an online world swimming in fake news, the idea of an elevated board of fact checkers with integrity and a strong background in journalism might sound like a good idea to many. In a society where unsubstantiated media reports like those surrounding the Covington Catholic School boys are common, wouldn’t it be nice to know which websites can be relied upon to deliver the truth rather than biased opinion – every time?

This is exactly what the “anti-fake news” service NewsGuard – built into Microsoft’s Edge browser – promises to deliver. But, can NewsGuard be trusted to deliver on its promises? Unfortunately, a closer look at some of the members of its advisory board raises serious questions about the integrity of this service. As reported by Breitbart News recently:

NewsGuard … has an advisory board with a history of spreading inaccurate information, conspiracy theories, and engaging in unethical journalism.

What NewsGuard promises

NewsGuard’s website appears to offer a sure way to sift fact from fiction, promising:

NewsGuard uses journalism to fight false news, misinformation, and disinformation. Our trained analysts, who are experienced journalists, research online news brands to help readers and viewers know which ones are trying to do legitimate journalism — and which are not.

Our 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. …

A SWAT team of NewsGuard analysts operates 24/7 to identify suddenly trending purveyors of unreliable news among sites that NewsGuard has not yet rated and warn internet users about them in real time.


That’s what NewsGuard promises, but how can they deliver when members of the advisory board that steers this organization themselves have a history of ethical murkiness?

A closer look at NewsGuard’s advisory board

A closer look at three of the seven members of NewsGuard’s advisory board raises some serious red flags about this organization.

Richard Stengel

A former editor of Time Magazine and Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy, Stengel might seem like the perfect choice to serve on NewsGuard’s Board. The facts say otherwise, however. Back in 2011, he was criticized for several “factual errors” in a cover story for Time Magazine. The Huffington Post called him out for “inaccurate statements” in an article entitled, “Stengelgate,” and most recently he jumped in, boots and all, to attack the Covington High School boys without stopping to get the facts or watch all the footage. Sound like someone you want in charge of the people “fact checking” your sources of information?

General Michael Hayden

This former director of the CIA and the NSA was one of the most avid promoters of the Russian collusion conspiracy theory and has attacked President Trump on multiple occasions. His comparison of the president’s proposed border wall to the Holocaust caused outrage among many, with BlazeTV’s Jordan Schachtel saying that his comments amounted to dancing on the graves of Holocaust victims. He has also spoken out against conservative online publications like Breitbart News, accusing them of having an “illegitimate” and “non-fact-based worldview.” Sound like an unbiased, careful sifter of the facts to you?

Jessica Lessin

Ms. Lessin is a former Wall Street Journal reporter who now serves as editor-in-chief at Information. Lessin came under heavy fire for her defense of Facebook’s handling – or the lack thereof -- of fake news stories, especially after her deep connections to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg came to light. Lessin and her husband have been friends with Zuckerberg for years, and he was even rumored to be a member of their wedding party when they got married. With Facebook being one of the greatest sources of information on the planet, would you want Lessin deciding what is and is not legitimate news?

Why would anyone want to entrust the selection of their online sources of information to these people? With an advisory board like this, NewsGuard cannot be the purveyor of truth it claims to be. Learn more about fake news at

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