Questioning The Rational Behind Fake News Source Lists – OpEd


One of the tools to fight the disinformation flow is creating lists of information and news sources that spread it and then consider them illegitimate; hence, they should not be visited or cited. While this solution has been helpful in many ways, there are also serious concerns, such as objectivity and the factors and methodology adopted; these concerns should be exposed to find a balanced usage of these lists that also mitigates their downside. 

Consider the following fake news lists and think about the rationale behind them: 

News Guards, which markets itself as the internet trust tool, was founded in 2018; it employs a team of journalists and editors to rate news and information sources; the final rating is either green, red, satire, or platform, which means the website receive content directly from users with limited vetting, the rating is based on nine criteria such as transparency,  repeatedly publishing fake news, and other factors. A recent study found that people’s focus on largely reliable sources changed over time in the survey.  Partnership 

Allside company adopts multiple methods to rate news websites; the editorial review panel has members from both the left and right who are tasked with labeling; another method that the company adopts is the blind bias survey; people read different headlines and articles from the outlet and are asked to rate it, the company also rely on its independent research, third party data and community feedback. 

Wikipedia, the largest online encyclopedia, also created its fake news websites list; the encyclopedia defines these websites as intentionally but not solely publishing hoaxes and disinformation; the definition excluded satirical news. 

News websites such as CBS news published a list of what it considers news websites that should be avoided ahead of the 2016 election; the list included websites such as infowar, rile news, and Christian times; worth noticing that CBS did not share the method of classifying the websites in some cases it only mentioned how the classified website shared a fake news story. 

In 2016, a Massachusetts university professor published a list of viral fake news websites; the list categorizes news sites as false, misleading, clickbaity, and satirical. What distinguishes this list is its relative flexibility, as the professor welcomed suggestions from the readers to update the list. 

Fact-checking organizations such as  Politifact and  Snope also generated lists of websites that spread fake news. Still, each applies a different methodology to decide whether the website is trustworthy. 

Practically speaking, having an organization or any authoritative person publishing list of fake news websites could be beneficial for society to determine the veracity of content, but some factors must be considered; for instance, The method used to arrive at the final verdict should be shared publicly and in detail with the readers. This will let the readers trust the output more and be confident in taking action against the listed websites. Another factor is that these lists should be dynamic rather than fixed. That’s when one news site publishes some fake news; it should not be labeled forever as a fake news source. If the same website removes the false content or issues an apology, it should be taken from the list. 

As we are tinkering with many tools to combat disinformation, we should be reminded to think of these tools we are using, both their powerful sides and their limitations, the fake news websites lists have been effective in guiding the public, but we should also keep scrutinize and improve the way we create and use them. 

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