Data and Ethics
NewsWhip has a unique role in the information ecosystem: we provide the media and communications professions with real-time, predictive insights on the stories winning human attention.
Data like that can be used for good or ill in the world. I wanted to set out the ethical lines we put in place around how we gather it, and how we permit it to be used.
We are sharing this because we have built our special role in the information ecosystem through trust. Media companies trust our signals to allocate their precious resources, and make strategic editorial decisions. Communicators trust us for vital corporate decisions. Platform partners (like Facebook) trust us to comply with their policies and respect their goals – and to make data useful for third parties who deliver social good.
NewsWhip only ever collects public data, and we do not collect any private data about individuals as inputs for our services.
For example, we model how fast each story is spreading by gathering public data points on engagement with that story. We index and monitor content from public facebook pages, public tweets, public snaps, public web pages, public forums, public YouTube accounts, and aggregate data on overall engagement with any posts, videos, or stories we discover. We don’t drop cookies or try and mine personal preferences of private individuals.
We do gather public data far more frequently and efficiently than any other technology we are aware of – this is necessary to meet the real-time needs of customers, which include newsrooms that want to know which stories are about to take off. So we have engineered a platform that can turn ordinary public data into insight in an extremely real-time, performant manner.
We support customers such as brands, media companies, NGOs and agencies in their most important, strategic work. As such, we maintain strict client confidentiality. Where we share case studies or client names, this is pursuant to written agreements.
We carefully comply with the rules established by social networks regarding third party use of data they provide. For example, these rules forbid surveillance use and other uses of their data that could negatively impact individuals – a principle we wholeheartedly support. The social networks require deletion and updating of posts when users delete and update posts.
Per the intentions of the networks and platforms, we must pass through many of these compliance obligations to our customers, and do this through our contracts and terms and conditions.
Especially since the revelations following the 2016 US Presidential Election, NewsWhip has been committed to supporting a huge range of initiatives that fight misinformation and fight for higher-quality news and information. You can read all about those initiatives in our website section on fighting fake news.
We reserve the right to determine who we do business with. We will not do business with companies or individuals that purport to produce news and opinion but produce disinformation, nor with government or state entities engaged in surveillance or law enforcement.
Improving Social Information Ecosystem Understanding
Societies are being rewired by our new social media consumption habits. I believe as modern information consumers, we must develop a critical, personal understanding of how this is happening, and its effects on ourselves and our politics, particularly as these relate to tribalism, identity, and misinformation.
We support academics doing research on quantitative and qualitative dimensions of this problem, especially around information health and identity and media habits. This includes research focused on the quality of information and news we engage with, and studies of the emotional and psychological characteristics of the content we engage with. You can read about some of this work here.
We live in the most exciting and fast-changing era for media and information in human history – let’s make sure we understand it as it happens.
NewsWhip Engagement Rankings
NewsWhip data is often cited as a measure of the “engagements” a given story or publisher received. What precisely does this data represent?
In brief – our engagement data shows how often a story or publisher was liked, shared, commented on, tweeted, or pinned on social networks in a given time period.
To create this data, NewsWhip tracks websites in real time, capturing every new story published as a URL. We then measure the number of engagements each of those URLs is receiving on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
- For Facebook, our engagement count is a sum of the Shares, Likes, Reactions, and Comments on a URL – on both public and private posts. This includes all activity by Pages, Groups, and users who share, comment, or react to the URL.
- For Twitter, our engagement count is the number of times a URL is tweeted or retweeted by verified accounts or other influencers.
- On Pinterest, the number represents the number of times users have pinned the URL.
We sum the engagement counts on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to arrive at the Total Engagement for each Article.
To create our publisher rankings, we sum the engagement counts for all URLs published by a website within the reporting period, and compare the 500,000 or so sites we track. (For example, the New York Times produces about 20,000 stories each month, so our total engagement for a month will represent all engagement on those 20,000 stories.) For our Facebook rankings and publishing reports, we rely only on Facebook engagement counts.
Our data indicates which public pages or public Twitter accounts shared a URL, but does not – and cannot – retrieve personally identifiable information on which private accounts or groups are doing the sharing. We hope that our continued publication of this data can serve as an important source of transparency regarding the social media information sphere, while strictly respecting privacy.