A startup called Our.News is working to make users use the news more intelligently.
In other words, it faces some big, seemingly unsolvable problems. For one thing, there is an enormous amount of disinformation online – like Our.News Founder and CEO Richard Zack said, "Unfortunately, there are thousands of people around the world who intentionally make it difficult for people to know what is true."
At the same time, many people do not trust the media and the fact checkers. (The facts don't change people's opinions either.)
All of this results in an environment where no one knows exactly what to believe, or where he simply accepts the stories that reinforce his existing beliefs.
"You can't fight misinformation by telling people what's true because they don't believe it," said Zack. His solution? Something he called "nutrition labeling for news." "It doesn't say it's good or bad, it doesn't say it is bought or not bought. The decision to buy is left to consumers. "
In some ways, the approach is similar to that of NewsGuard, which evaluates online news sources. In fact, Zack said, "We really support NewsGuard and what they do." Still, he suggested that publisher ratings weren't enough, which is why Our.News provided labels for individual articles – he compared it to "trying" Select between Lucky Charms and Cheerios. “Knowing that both types of grain are made by General Mills is not enough.
In other words, you don't want to just accept what a publisher tells you. Even the best publisher can make mistakes. Therefore, you also want to know what allegations he makes, what sources they have, and whether these allegations have been verified by independent factories.
An Our.News label can be accessed via the Firefox and Chrome browser extensions as well as via an iOS app. The label includes publisher descriptions from the Freedom Forum and bias ratings from AllSides. Information about the source, author and editor of an article; Information to verify facts from sources such as PolitiFact, Snopes and FactCheck.org; Labels like "Clickbait" or "Satire"; and user ratings and reviews.
According to Zack, Our.News has created around 600,000 labels to date, and around 5,000 new ones are added every day. Of course, there's still a good chance that the article you're reading has no caption, but in this case Our.News may still be able to show you publisher information, and users can also click a button to add it the article into the system.
"We intentionally combined objective facts [about the article] with subjective views, ”added Zack. "We think that's the solution … If you're purely subjective, it's just a popularity contest. If it's only objective, who determines the truth? We mix the two together, condense everything on the nutrition label so that news consumers are faster can make their own decision. "
He also admitted that different users treat the labels in different ways. For example, some may still not trust the fact reviewers, but even then Zack argued that it was still important to give publishers a way to give feedback in a way that was more structured than a normal comment section.
He also noted that user ratings are weighted based on their interaction with the label. If you skip the publisher information, sources, and fact-checking, your rating isn't worth as much as someone else who has carefully considered all of this information.
In addition to its current consumer-oriented distribution, Our.News has just introduced a way for publishers and other companies to include their labels. Zack said this could be used by "news publishers, content aggregators, social networks, and wherever articles appear." (So he wants to make money too.)
We hope that Our.News partners can use these labels to make it easier for readers to trust their content and to collect feedback from these readers. There will be some adjustments, but Zack emphasized that publishers cannot change the actual content of the labels.