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American Federation Of Teachers Partners With ‘News Literacy Tool’ For Students To Filter Content, Combat ‘Misinformation’

Kendall Tietz

A service that uses journalists to vet content and rate news and information sites will become available to public school students across the country this week, as part of a partnership with one of the U.S.’ largest teachers unions.

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the U.S.’ second-largest teachers union, is rolling out a nationwide partnership with a “news literacy tool” called NewsGuard “to protect and champion legitimate journalism and fact-based reporting” in an effort to “help educators and their students navigate a sea of online disinformation,” according to a Jan. 25 press release. The agreement will provide licenses for AFT’s 1.7 million members, so tens of millions of public school students can access its services through a licensed copy of NewsGuard’s browser extension.

NewsGuard, a service run by “trained journalists,” rates and reviews news sources to “fight misinformation and teach media literacy,” according to its website. Its goal with the partnership is to help students and teachers filter for quality content, fighting “misinformation” and “disinformation” since students frequently rely on the internet for help with schoolwork.

Based on its nine criteria of journalistic practice “each [online] site gets an overall rating of Green (generally trustworthy) or Red (generally not trustworthy), a trust score of 0-100 points, and a detailed ‘Nutrition Label’ review explaining who is behind the site, what kind of content it publishes, and why it received its rating — with specific examples of any trust issues our team found,” NewsGuard’s website says.

“We are constantly trying to help our students, particularly our middle, high school, and post-secondary students, separate fact from fiction, as we help them develop their critical-thinking and analytical skills,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said in the press release.

She praised the partnership and NewsGuard’s services as “a beacon of clarity to expose the dark depths of the internet,” according to the press release.

“For years, educators have fought battles against suspect sourcing, with their students often misled by dubious outlets and spam sites posing as ‘news,’” she said. “NewsGuard offers a practical solution, alerting students and educators to those sites while also providing a valuable lesson in media literacy.”

“Sadly, the foundational role of the fourth estate is in danger of being poisoned by torrents of trash,” she added. “NewsGuard reminds us of the importance of an independent press that students can rely on to form their own views and opinions so they can participate as active citizens in our democracy.”

Steven Brill, co-founder of NewsGuard said the service is already used by over 800 public libraries, serving seven million public library patrons and “dozens of public schools and universities, as well as independent schools,” according to the press release.

“Now, with the AFT arranging for all of its member-educators to have free access to NewsGuard—at a time when misinformation is such a growing threat to public health and our democracy—millions more of America’s students will also be ‘NewsGuarding’ it,” he said. “Everyone should appreciate the AFT’s leadership.”

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