Earlier this week, we launched Microsoft AccountGuard, a new service designed to help political campaigns and other organizations that underpin democratic processes protect themselves from cyberattacks. Today, we are further broadening the work of our Defending Democracy Program by announcing a new partnership with NewsGuard Technologies, which will empower voters by providing them with high-quality information about the integrity and transparency of online news sites.
Disinformation can distort democracy. Those who propagate it seek to achieve this objective by undermining trust in core democratic institutions and by exacerbating societal fault lines, manipulating public perception of polarized viewpoints and sowing discord and conflict. While these tactics are not new to political discourse, the power and anonymity of information and communication technology and social media has created an asymmetric threat which foreign adversaries are using to corrupt our democratic processes. Defending against disinformation efforts, therefore, is a critical challenge we are addressing in our Defending Democracy Program. At Microsoft, we believe that enhancing digital media literacy and transparency will be a powerful tool to reduce the impact of disinformation campaigns.
Industry and the public sector must come together in new ways to develop more systemic approaches that can advance digital media literacy. In releasing their first product, a freely available extension for our Edge browser (also available for Chrome), and by partnering with libraries across the United States, NewsGuard Technologies, is doing exactly that and we support their efforts.
Led by longtime respected journalists and entrepreneurs Steven Brill and Gordon Crovitz, NewsGuard’s analysts review online news sites, compiling their findings across a series of nine journalistic integrity criteria into a “Nutrition Label” and corresponding Red/Green Reliability Rating. 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. To be clear, Microsoft does not have any oversight or editorial control over the NewsGuard ratings, but we applaud the approach NewsGuard is taking and have confidence in the quality of the professional journalistic analysis NewsGuard will be providing to the public.
We are proud to sponsor NewsGuard’s new browser extension, which can be downloaded free of charge starting today from the Microsoft Store. Moreover, our Defending Democracy Program will continue to build partnerships and explore technology solutions that can help defend against foreign influence operations.
Our partnership with NewsGuard is just part of the work our Defending Democracy Program is doing with leading organizations around the world to combat disinformation efforts that seek to distort democratic discourse. We are also supporting two academic research initiatives, one led by Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy (CITP) and another by the University of Oxford’s Oxford Internet Institute (OII). Our work with CITP is focused on disinformation campaigns targeting U.S. democratic processes, while our work with OII focuses on disinformation campaigns targeting democratic processes internationally. Like our partnership with NewsGuard, both of these academic research partnerships seek to make much more transparent the real sources of news and information shared online.