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(Credit: Lance Whitney)

Fake news has become a pervasive problem on the Internet, especially these days with so much political propaganda being thrown around. Now, Microsoft is trying to make it easier for you to separate the wheat from the chaff.

SEE: The best mobile apps for news, politics, and investigative journalism

Newly integrated into the Edge browser for iOS and Android is a filter known as NewsGuard. When enabled, this filter provides an analysis of each news site to tell you whether or not it's considered accurate and accountable in its reporting and coverage of stories. You can easily tell right off the bat. If the site gets a passing grade, a green icon appears next to its address. Sites that fail are dinged with a red icon. You can also drill down further to view a "Nutrition Label" with full details and disclosure on how and why the site was ranked.

Over the past few years, fake news and misinformation have spread across social networks and other websites. With no guide to follow, people often assume that the news they read is accurate and reliable, especially if it falls in line with their own political beliefs and assumptions. But fake news has created havoc worldwide, blamed for influencing the 2016 US election, swaying the UK's decision to leave the European Union and leading to murder sprees in India.

NewsGuard and similar fake news filters have long been available as plug-ins for Microsoft Edge, Firefox, Google Chrome and Apple's Safari. But these require that you find, download and install them into your browser. The direct integration of NewsGuard into Edge makes the process simpler and gives Edge an advantage over competing mobile browsers.

How does NewsGuard work? The NewsGuard website explains in detail how news sites are ranked and rated. In a nutshell, a team of trained journalists hired by NewsGuard founders Steven Brill and Gordon Crovitz analyze each site based on nine different factors. Does the site repeatedly publish false content? Does it correct or clarify errors? Does it avoid deceptive headlines? Does it reveal who's in charge? The journalists assigned to a specific site then write their report with as much detail as possible.

To enable the NewsGuard filter in either the iOS or Android version of Edge, open the browser. Tap the three-dot icon and select Settings. Tap the setting for News rating and turn on the switch for NewsGuard to display the rating on the address bar. Now, when you browse to any website, an icon appears to the left of the URL on the address bar. If the site has been rated by NewsGuard, the icon will be green, red, or another color variation to visually alert you to that site's ranking. Click on the icon to read more. Click a button to see the full Nutrition Label, which describes the site's history, background, content, credibility, transparency and other attributes. The label also lists the names of the NewsGuard journalists who created the full report for a particular site.

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Takeaways

  1. The Microsoft Edge mobile browser can now tell you if a site is a purveyor of fake news.
  2. By using the integrated NewsGuard filter, you can see a ranking for each news site and a full description of the site's background, history, and content.

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Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books - "Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time" and "Teach Yourself VISUALLY LinkedIn."