Submissions:2019/To blacklist or whitelist? Three perspectives on how to classify reliable and unreliable news

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This submission has been accepted for WikiConference North America 2019.


To blacklist or whitelist? Three perspectives on how to classify reliable and unreliable news


Reliability of Information
+ Tech & Tools

Type of session:



As concern about the spread of misinformation and disinformation online has continued to rise, so too have efforts to combat it. While there are many approaches to disempowering false information, whitelists and blacklists—in industries ranging from academia to journalism—have emerged as a key tactic.

But how effective are blacklists or whitelists in guiding readers to reliable sources of information? What criteria and methods should we use to construct and share these lists? And how do we ensure that the lists themselves remain reliable over time? At the heart of these questions lies the fundamental challenge of how to classify sources as credible or unreliable—of where and how to draw that line.

This panel presents three different approaches to the use of blacklists or whitelists in promoting reliable information or demoting unreliable information.

Global Disinformation Index (GDI) was founded to create a “global rating system for the world’s media that will assign a rating to each source based on the probability of that source carrying disinformation.” Benjamin T. Decker, researcher at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center and founder of Memetica, a disinformation consultancy, will speak about his research as well as his work with the GDI.

Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) is an online index of open access, peer-reviewed journals. In order to be included in the directory, journals must adhere to guidelines that account for the transparency and credibility of the publication; the index, in other words, functions as a white list. Ivonne Lujano, Ambassador for DOAJ for Latin America, will provide an academic perspective on building such an index and criteria.

Melissa Zimdars, critical media studies scholar at Merrimack College, quickly learned, firsthand, the pluses and pitfalls of attempting to classify false news and compile a blacklist of unreliable sources when a list of false news sites that she compiled for a class went viral shortly after the 2016 presidential election. Professor Zimdars will speak to the difficulties of creating a criteria for such a list, as well as what she learned from witnessing that criteria and list fall under public scrutiny.

Discussionists: Kate Harloe and Yemile Bucay, strategists at NewsQ, will guide the conversation.

Three takeaways/questions:

Building the lists: Discuss various approaches and methodologies for constructing whitelists and blacklists in the context of news and academic publications, as well as for other types of information sources. What kinds of methods have these panelists used? What methods or criteria do they think are effective or ineffective?

What do we know about the efficacy of whitelists and blacklists in guiding intended audiences towards reliable information and away from unreliable information? How do these panelists think about the effects and limits of their work, within the context of other efforts to fight dis/misinformation?

Sharing methods: How should researchers be sharing methods for constructing these lists and collaborating more generally? For those whose lists have become public, what have they gained from feedback—both positive or negative—on their methods and lists?

Academic Peer Review option:


Author name:

Kate Harloe

E-mail address:

Wikimedia username:


Affiliated organization(s):


Estimated time:

30 minutes

Preferred room size:

Special requests:

Have you presented on this topic previously? If yes, where/when?:


If your submission is not accepted, would you be open to presenting your topic in another part of the program? (e.g. lightning talk or unconference session)