Global and national news stories like the ongoing covornavirus pandemic can have a devastating effect on economies, financial markets and your business. Simple headlines can dictate a company’s stock price and chance an enterprise’s focus.
That is why it is important to make sure your organization depends on only trusted and verified sources of news in an age where misleading, unreliable and outright fake news and runs unchecked on the internet.
Veteran journaists Steven Brill and Gordon Crovitz, formed NewsGuard in 2018 to help stem the tide of misinformation by creating an internet browser extension that tells the reader if what they’re reading is accurate, misleading or false.
A misleading or false news story will come with a red-marked warning that lets the reader know it may not be the most reliable source of information. Some websites even come pre-labeled with that warning.
We recently spoke to the co-founders on the heels of an expanded partnership with Microsoft about why organizations should make sure both their leaders and staff are getting their news and information from trusted sources.
Why real news matters for the enterprise
According to Crovitz, the business-to-business use case for a service like NewsGuard is to make sure staffs are relying on reliable information about their employer.
“It often happens – especially in bigger enterprises – where people see a news story about the company and wonder, ‘How did this happen? This is terrible. Are we really responsible for this?’ It often turns out it’s from one of our red-rated sites that has made something up, misinterpreted something or has falsely made claims.”
This is especially important in a time like this as media organizations are reporting continuous updates on the coronavirus pandemic and the process of reopening local economies – not to mention the fact that we’re in the middle of a political season with a presidential election just months away.
According to Crovitz, many U.S. states and regions have their own hoax sites or misleading news organizations that have attempted to fill the gap left by the declining local newspaper industry.
As states begin to loosen restrictions on social distancing guidelines and business reopen, the importance of reliable news is even greater.
“This is a critical time I think, for all of us to have access to reliable information and not to be swamped by the infodemic,” Crovitz says.
Advertising on verified websites and supporting legitimate journalism
Another use case for these services is in advertising, specifically programmatic advertising online.
According to Brill, the company has another product called BrainGuard which is essentially the result of the data the company collected.
“Programmatic advertising doesn’t really care what the website is it just cares about the demographic of the person who happens to be looking for website,” Brill says.
For example, ads for major 5G providers have been appearing on websites that claim the evolving technology somehow causes the coronavirus (it doesn’t).
Another example is when ads for healthcare organizations find their way on hoax sites that make unverified claims on cures for diseases.
“By the same token, most of these brands don’t wake up in the morning and say, ‘Gee, let’s support these hoax sites.’ But the nature of programmatic advertising, and the fact that the so-called brand safety companies have no way of dealing with this. They can deal with hate speech, they can do pornography, but you can’t use artificial intelligence for this kind of misinformation.”
Brand safety companies have had to blacklist certain words so ads don’t wind up on hoax sites, but one of those words is COVID-19 since misinformation about the pandemic is prevalent. That results in ads being clocked on home pages of legitimate media organizations reporting on the crisis.
However, NewsGuard can provide ad agencies and brand safety companies with a whitelist of legitimate websites so those brands contribute to legitimate journalism and facts.
Reliable sources can give your company a market advantage
Market research and competitive research can also be aided with the help of NewsGuard and other services that provide these kinds of checks on the trustworthiness of information sources.
What if your organization was scouting a new market and, based on inaccurate information in a news story, made the wrong decision? That could cost you money, time and reputational harm.
That same is true if your company was about to sign a big deal for a vendor for a product based on sources that made fraudulent claims about their product. Or, someone could be intentionally trying to influence financial markets by making false claims about a company or product.
Once you find you you’ve been misled, it may be too late to reverse that damage.
“I think for any kind of business-to-business enterprise, this is a time to keep employees relying on reliable information and not being distracted or confused by false claims – of which there are many – as companies reopen,” Crovitz says.