Top Disinformationists & Most Trusted News Sites of 2020

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NewsGuard has compiled Top 10 lists highlighting some of the most influential U.S.-based peddlers of online misinformation identified by NewsGuard’s analysts this year. 

NewsGuard’s year-end lists also spotlight U.S.-based publications, big and small, that are practicing responsible journalism in a transparent manner.

To produce these lists, NewsGuard relied on our credibility ratings of nearly 5,000 news and information sites in the U.S., and engagement data NewsGuard obtained from NewsWhip.

NewsGuard awards websites a score of 0 to 100, depending on how many of NewsGuard’s nine credibility and transparency criteria the site meets. A site scoring below a 60 earns a Red, or generally unreliable, rating.

In this list, they have identified the least credible sites — meaning those that score below a 10 — that garnered the most social media engagement in 2020, starting with the most widely shared site at number one.

These websites have a record of routinely publishing falsehoods and, in most cases, refusing to disclose to readers who owns the site or who creates its content. Read the details at NewsGuard.

Beware Right Wing Local Fake News Sites

Segment is from Episode 296 of the Beyond Social Media Show

This is from The Atlantic article I mentioned in the previous episode. The article points out that some conservatives have been experimenting with a scheme to exploit the credibility of local journalism by publishing these websites with innocuous-sounding, news related, news-sounding names like the Arizona Monitor and the Kalamazoo Times.

Local Right-Wing Fake News Sites

The Kalamazoo Times I do remember seeing some stuff pop up in my social media feeds from the Kalamazoo Times.

I’ve seen a couple of these and thought they don’t sound like any news organization I’ve ever heard of heard of.

Local Fake News Sites Designed To Look Credible

But they sound credible enough that lots of people can be fooled by them. So at first glance, they look like regular publications, they have community notices and they cover school events and stuff.

How To Spot Fake Local News Sites

But on a closer look, there’s no masthead, there’s few if any bylines. There’s no address for local offices. So all the things that a legit news organization would have, they don’t.

Those are the things to watch out for if you are wondering whether it’s a legit news organization’s site that you’ve come across.

Republican-Controlled Media Organs

Many of them are organs of Republican lobbying groups and some others belong to a company called Locality Labs, which is run by a conservative activist in Illinois.

They give no indication that they have a political agenda but–so, candidates looking to plant a negative news story will use these sites to get their headline into the information ecosphere.

Vehicle For Escaping FEC Scrutiny & Creating Headlines For Use In Television Ads

And by working through a third party consulting firm instead of paying the site’s directly, they obscure their involvement in it when they have to file their expenditures with the FEC.

So even apart from that, you know, even if you recognize these for what they are in your newsfeed, they can still pull the headlines that they plant these stories and use them in their campaign commercials and fundraising emails.

Citing them as from the Kalamazoo Times or whatever, and people are likely not going to question them and consider those reputable sources. So, buyer beware out there.

Hyper Partisan Media Outlets Mapped

Segment from Episode 315 of the Beyond Social Media Show

This is more of a public service announcement than a political one but this is from Nieman Lab and Jessica Mahone and Philip Napoli are the reporters on it. And they have mapped the locations of more than 400 hyper-partisan media outlets. So media in quotations, right?

Local “News” Sites Funded By Political Operatives

These are websites that are often funded and operated by government officials or political candidates, PACs, political party operatives, and they are found most frequently in swing states but they’re propaganda outlets, basically. So we talked about in–what was it–the last episode?

Hyper-Partisan News Sites Mapped

We talked about this; hyper-partisan propaganda sites. They’ve got a–we will embed this in the show notes–they’ve got a Google Map mashup of where all these hyper-partisan sites are located. So you can find them in your location.

98% Are Conservative

I did an eyeball test of it. And just from the overview, it looks like 98% of the sites in the US are conservative. They’ve got them: Red is conservative, blue is liberal or left leaning. There are zero left wing sites in Minnesota or New York, I check those out on the map.

Demise Of Local News

So it does appear to be–so the void that’s being left by the closure of local newspapers is being filled by a strategic, tactical and strategic, effort by conservatives to provide local news that is also, you know, partisan and propaganda.

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