Microsoft Installing App on Edge Browser That Helps Detect Fake News

As news outlets bombard social media feeds from all directions, a new app will help its users filter which news is legitimate and which is fake.

The Microsoft Edge browser now automatically installs a third-party app called NewsGuard, which takes the guesswork out of the equation by using a green feature for "reliable" and red for "proceed with caution" for news outlets that a user visits.

Here's how it works: If someone pulls up a story from the Russian news site RT, then a "proceed with caution" signal will appear. NewsGuard calls RT the site of "a leading Russian government propaganda effort." When someone swipes to a story from Britain's The Daily Mail, the app says that outlet has "been forced to pay damages in numerous high-profile cases."

When an article from the New York Times is pulled up, the message from NewsGuard says, "exerts significant influence on national and international news and public debate."

Microsoft says it isn't trying to censor any outlets or infringe on any company's right to free speech.

"The objective is not to preclude access to any news content — an approach that would conflict with our nation's free speech principles — but rather to empower readers with additional information on the source and reliability of that content as they consume and/or share it," Tom Burt, Microsoft's corporate vice president for customer security and trust, wrote last summer.

Until recently, anyone who previously wanted NewsGuard had to manually download and install it themselves.

The app directs users to settings that allow them to easily set up their choices, with colors to guide them and give them a hint of what to expect. NewsGuard currently rates only U.S.-based news websites and major international sites.

"We're delighted to be able to reach millions of people through Microsoft Edge for mobile, giving news consumers more information about the sources of news they see online based on basic journalistic criteria of credibility and transparency," Gordon Crovitz, a former Wall Street Journal publisher and one of NewsGuard's CEOs, wrote.

NewsGuard employs seasoned journalists who scour companies and their articles, and it has advisors like former CIA director General Michael Hayden and The Information founder Jessica Lessin.

There's a "nutritional label" next to each site's name, which gives a summary of the company from ownership to financing, content and credibility.

Though "fake news" is a term recently brought to light by President Donald Trump, starting with his 2016 campaign and still going strong today, false news isn't new to the world or the United States.

Since ancient and medieval times, yellow journalism and fake propaganda has led countries to war, it is speculated that it got the United States involved in the Spanish-American War.

Now with the internet and so many news outlets — both fake and real — at the fingertips of hundreds of millions of people, and with digital media taking over, this is likely the first of many devices that can help news readers stay on top of what they decide to follow.