NewsGuard has expanded its services to Australia and New Zealand in a move that will pit the digital news trust ratings company against the heart of Rupert Murdoch’s publishing empire.
The company has published ratings and “nutrition labels” (a summary of their ratings decisions) for all websites that account for 92% of online engagement with the news in both countries.
With the additions, NewsGuard now covers nine countries.
The company rated one in five (19%) news sites in Australia and New Zealand as untrustworthy; a higher fraction of low-rated sites than in the UK (15%) or Canada (4%), but a lower fraction than in the US (46%), France (33%) or Germany (25%).
Of the sites that NewsGuard found to be regularly publishing false content, half (50%) have published disinformation about climate change.
News Corp Australia, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s mass media and publishing company News Corp, has an outsized influence on the Australian news market. Murdoch-owned print titles make up two-thirds of the metropolitan market, and News Corp additionally owns a number of top news websites, radio stations, and Foxtel, which operates Sky News.
The timing of NewsGuard’s launch of operations in Australia coincides with an effort to crackdown on misinformation on digital platforms. In January, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (Australia’s media regulator) was given new powers to enact an enforceable industry code against online misinformation if industry self-regulation measures proved insufficient.
In a statement at the time, Australia’s minister for Communications Michelle Rowland said: “Misinformation and disinformation pose a threat to the safety and wellbeing of Australians, as well as to our democracy, society and economy.”