It was not the most auspicious of starts, when Press Gazette told readers “US news website rating tool Newsguard has changed its verdict on Mail Online after originally declaring the UK’s most-read news website failed to uphold ‘basic standards of accuracy or accountability’ … The start-up said the changes had been made following ‘discussions’ with an unnamed Daily Mail executive”. And now has come worse news.
Or maybe not
Tom Harwood, replacement teaboy to the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog, today boasted that NewsGuard had given a 100% clear rating to his new home, telling anyone making enquiries that “This website adheres to all nine of NewsGuard’s standards of credibility and transparency”. Yeah, right.
Let’s have a quick look at those nine categories, shall we? How about the first, “Does not repeatedly publish false content”? January this year - claimed that the Queen could refuse assent for “Brexit Wreckers’ bills”. NOT TRUE. Today - claimed about Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson “After a barrage of leftist abuse, The Rock deleted his tweet and replaced it with this”. No citation, no example. Just invention. Repeatedly publishing false content.
How about the next category? “Gathers and presents information responsibly”. So responsibly that The Great Guido was caught out trying to surreptitiously delete a post last week after they fouled up. Because their “information” was not gathered responsibly.
Next comes “regularly corrects or clarifies errors”. No it doesn’t. The “Nutrition Label” for the Fawkes site justifies the green tick because of “Updates” below the original story. AN UPDATE IS NOT THE SAME AS A CORRECTION OR CLARIFICATION. Another fail.
Fourth category is “Handles the difference between news and opinion responsibly”. But the Fawkes blog does not even make such an attempt. NewsGuard actually admits this - that it “does not purport to be a straight news site”. So why the green tick? Next!
Oh look - “Avoids deceptive headlines”. Ri-i-i-ight. From today: “CBI Dancing To Boris’s No Deal Tune … Boris Calls CBI Tune”. Compare and contrast with the equivalent BBC headline on the same news: “Business lobby group CBI says UK not ready for no-deal Brexit”. Not so much avoiding deceptive headlines, as blatantly indulging in them.
File under fiction
And so we get to “Website discloses ownership and financing”. Not really: although Global and General Nominees is identified, no other detail is given, and certainly none on The Great Guido’s backers. The NewsGuard “Nutrition Label” justifies the green tick by having found out through some of this information through web searches.
How about “Clearly labels advertising”? Er, no it doesn’t, although it is easy to pick out the adverts, and “Sponsors” are identified. The link to the Murdoch press, though, is not.
Another green tick not deserved is for “Reveals who’s in charge, including any possible conflicts of interest”. The Fawkes site does not. The “Nutrition Label” correctly identifies Staines as head man, but there is nothing on any conflict of interest.
All of which brings us to the last undeserved green tick, “The site provides names of content creators, along with either contact or biographical information”. No it doesn’t.
It is possible to see who authored each post - usually - if you view the Fawkes blog though (for instance) Feedly. But the website does not show that information. No biographical information is provided. The “Nutrition Label” justifies this by telling “Stories are not by-lined, as the entire site is written in the character of ‘Guido Fawkes’ by several people”.
That’s the justification for giving this borderline Fake News site a full board of green ticks. How Fake is Fawkes? You can see false content, irresponsible news gathering, deceptive headlines and failure to correct errors in the story “Anti Private School Labour MP Founded Private School Tutoring Company” from July 12. Or the inept attempts to back out smears exposed when amending a New Year 2019 smear of Seumas Milne.
Were there fewer demands on my time, it would be possible to dig out countless examples of Fawkes Fake flannel. NewsGuard green ticks that site, it loses all credibility.
Still, what’s a chocolate fireguard between friends, eh? Another fine mess.
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