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Is TASS Reliable?

By · Mar 26, 2024 · 7 min read

Is TASS Reliable?

TASS’s reputation as a reliable source of news is met with suspicion outside of Russia. The news agency is state media, meaning the government has the final say on what content they produce and how they present information. In recent years, the outlet has come under growing scrutiny for its reporting on geopolitical conflicts such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. For example, Reuters removed TASS from their content marketplace in 2022, with one of their reasons being violations of journalistic integrity. Other news outlets and agencies have made similar moves.

On the other hand, TASS boasts that they are a credible news source. On its “About TASS” page, they claim that the agency is, “one of the most cited Russian news agencies… forming a complete and objective picture of events,” along with mentions of numerous awards. Considering these contradictions, is TASS as untrustworthy as its critics say? At Biasly, we endeavor to evaluate the accuracy and dependability of all media outlets. Let us investigate the reliability and accuracy of TASS.

Does Reliability Matter?

Reliability, in general, refers to how trustworthy or accurate information, or in this case, a news source is. If we consider this definition, it quickly becomes clear why reliability is important in media sources. If we can’t trust the things we read then there isn’t much of a point in continuing to consume content from that source, after all. So how exactly can we gauge the reliability of a news source anyways?

There are several potential measures of reliability to look out for when trying to determine whether a media source is reliable or not. Red flags for an unreliable article can include the presence of wild unsubstantiated claims, facts dependent on other unreliable sources, heavy use of opinionated language, and more. Some indicators of a reliable news source, on the other hand, include things like:

  • Absence of subjective/opinionated language in articles
  • Credible sources cited (e.g., neutral sources, .gov, .edu websites)
  • Facts and statistics backed by multiple relevant outside sources
  • Use of primary sources when possible (e.g., interviews, quotes)
  • Information that remains consistent across news sources

So How Does TASS Fare in its Reliability?

The political reliability index developed by Biasly objectively assesses news organizations’ accuracy and trustworthiness. TASS’s overall Reliability Score has been rated as ‘Good’ by Biasly. sThis rating is a weighted average of two distinct scores: the Fact Analysis Score and the Source Analysis Score, each evaluating separate components of TASS’s Reliability. When computing the Average Reliability of the article the Fact Analysis score is more heavily weighted. These ratings are as follows in the next two paragraphs:

TASS’s Fact Analysis Score is ‘Good,’ which suggests readers can trust most of TASS’s content online. The Fact Analysis score focuses more on the accuracy of claims, facts, and sources presented in the article and any hints of selection and omission bias, which we will discuss further in the article.

TASS’s Source Analysis Score is ‘Fair,’ which suggests readers can trust some of the sources, links, and quotes provided by the news source, but overall much improvement is needed. This score, which is based on A.I., focuses on assessing the quality of sources and quotes used including their number, lengths, uniqueness, and diversity.

However, since these scores are based on percentages and averages, individual articles could be more or less trustworthy depending on the context, author, and other factors. Our findings show that TASS can be a reliable source at times, but they have some flaws, most notably only presenting the Russian viewpoint on the issues.

Let us analyze the supporting data for TASS’s rankings and discuss what to watch out for while searching for trustworthy news sources.

TASS Accuracy and Reliability

The credibility of news organizations is significantly impacted by bias and political orientation. Critics of TASS have accused the news agency of prioritizing the Russian government’s agenda and interests over factual reporting. We can evaluate the integrity of TASS’s news stories and deduce how well the publication supports assertions with evidence and see whether this is indeed the case. We will check for selection and omission bias as we assess the articles’ correctness and factuality.

Selection bias is when stories and facts are selected or deselected, often on ideological grounds, to create a narrative in support of the new sources’ ideology. Omission bias, on the other hand, is when different opinions and political views regarding a situation are left out so that the reader is only exposed to the ideological perspective supported by the author. It’s important to keep in mind these two types of biases when trying to assess an article’s level of accuracy.

Biasly assigns a percentage score to accuracy, with one being the least accurate and 100 being the most. Ratings are calculated by weighing assertions with supporting evidence, the number of reliable internal sources, and the number of reliable external sources employed.

A full page at Biasly’s website includes dependability and accuracy ratings for newly released TASS news stories. As we previously stated, according to the reports analytics have assessed, TASS has a Good reliability score. This score can vary from article to article, though, and the most extreme variations in dependability are caused by bias, notably omission, and selection bias. Consider ABC News, which Biasly gives a “Somewhat Liberal” biased score and a “Good” reliability analyst score. One article, titled, “House passes anti-Asian hate crimes bill, legislation awaits Biden’s signature,” has an author bias score of -24% liberal and an 85% reliability score. Another article, titled, “Biden calls new GOP-passed Georgia law restricting voting access an ‘atrocity’,” has an author bias score of -67% liberal and a 42% reliability score. Stories that display political leanings are less likely to be reliable.

Let’s look at the TASS article, “Gorbachev: claims that nuclear weapons guarantee peace are a delusion,” for accuracy and reliability. Biasly gives the article a Moderately Liberal rating with a neutral author bias score. While the author presented the information objectively regarding Mikhail Gorbachev’s stance against nuclear weapons, they do not reference any specific figure who has come out against denuclearization. The closest thing is a statement from Gorbachev about the common argument in favor of nuclear weapons.

“The proponents of nuclear deterrence argue that it is a safeguard of peace and security. I reply to them: to say that nuclear weapons saved peace is tantamount to repeating a dangerous myth in a dangerous world,”

The author could’ve better balanced their sources by finding an opposing viewpoint to Gorbachev’s position. It would have provided a well-rounded view of nuclear weapons. They also do not provide any hyperlinked sources for readers to fact-check or find the original sources themselves. If the author had corrected these errors, the article would be more trustworthy for the audience. Therefore, the article is closer to semi-reliable than reliable.

Analysis of Reliability in Buzzfeed Opinion Pieces

Opinion-style journalism is a suitable venue for reporters to express their opinions and beliefs, even if excessive opinion might be something to avoid while producing a general news article. Although opinion pieces are less trustworthy because they are subjective, they can still be worthwhile reading to increase understanding of various political viewpoints.

TASS is not a traditional media source with factual reporting articles and editorials. While the new agency’s authors may not use extreme or one-sided language, they still sprinkle their opinions and political agenda into their content. The news agency’s willingness to promote the Russian government’s perspective on the news has created questions about its credibility. For example, during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russian state media like TASS have come under fire for controlling the narratives about what was happening during the war. They falsely claimed that Ukraine was developing a nuclear “dirty bomb” without any evidence. TASS’s commitment to putting the interest of the Russian government superseded factual reporting to maintain approval from the Russian people.

Quality of Sources and Facts Used

TASS can be good at mentioning various sources in their articles but the quality of sources can vary. One article that fits this bill is, “Two Republican congressmen urge Biden to send more arms to Ukraine.” The author used 8 quotes with varying lengths. Of those 8 quotes, two of them are short, three fall under medium-length, and the other three are long. Longer quotes can indicate higher reliability if the source is reputable.

The author also references 7 sources, which are as follows:

  • Letter from Republican congressmen Mike Rogers and Mike Turner (conservative-leaning)
  • Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby (liberal-leaning)
  • Statement from Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova
  • Statement from Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov
  • Politico (liberal-leaning)
  • The Washington Post (liberal-leaning)
  • Foreign Policy (center)

On the surface, this appears to be a fairly balanced array of sources. It includes voices from the left, right, and center along with well-respected media outlets like Politico and The Washington Post. However, TASS emphasized the sources that provided Russia’s perspective on their activity in Ukraine. For example, they quoted detailed statements from Maria Zakharova but nothing from John Kirby, as seen below.

“Earlier, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby stated that the agency was closely monitoring the activity of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine.”

“On November 3, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova took a swipe at articles published in US media outlets that claim Russia was allegedly amassing troops at the Ukrainian border… ‘This wasn’t one fake news item, this is an entire fresh fake news campaign in American media outlets’”

TASS also did not cite or hyperlink any specific articles from American newspapers and magazines. It leaves the reader with no idea what specific report Maria Zacharova and Dmitry Peskov are responding to. It creates the impression that the reader should take Russia’s word over any outsider like the United States. While the author may have referenced high-quality sources in the article, they did use them in ways that would’ve enhanced its credibility.

Selection and Omission Bias

Propaganda outlets will selectively pick facts and statements they want to emphasize and omit ones that do not fit their agenda. In a previous example, TASS selectively emphasized its own politicians while dismissing American news media. It is a common theme throughout all its articles. To give another example, let’s look into the article, “The US doesn’t want to hear Russia on the subject of Ukraine, Black Sea region — senior diplomat.” TASS focuses exclusively on the statements and reactions from Russian politicians regarding the U.S. and its allies’ activities in Ukraine and the Black Sea region. They include a lengthy quote from Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov to provide a one-sided picture of the situation.

“‘In general, this negative bravado of the US and its allies and, accordingly, their charges in Kiev – it becomes increasingly more unhinged. Any rational kernels are being observed there less and less. It is permeated both with the provocative rhetoric with regards to us and the material content – also very much so provocative,’ he concluded.”

These comments portray the United States and NATO as aggressors for taking military action behind the scenes in the Black Sea. Meanwhile, the reader is left with the impression that Russia is the reasonable actor and victim during the conflict. They never mentioned any sources or quotes from U.S. or NATO officials regarding the situation in Ukraine. What TASS left out in the article was that tensions between Russia and Ukraine were boiling in late 2021, with the former building up its military to prepare for its invasion in 2022. That caught the attention of the United States and its allies to monitor the situation.

In one-sided pieces like these TASS articles, issues with factuality, sources, selection, and omission can be present. The articles we’ve covered so far are mostly biased and exclude adequate relevant background and information. As a news agency tied to an authoritarian-style government, TASS has a strong incentive to publish only state news and anything that makes Russia look good. Misleading the Russian audience gives them the impression that the Russian government is honest and ethical, which allows its leaders to maintain reputations.

So is TASS Reliable?

While TASS may appear to present information objectively, it is a semi-reliable news source given its tendency to emphasize Russia’s viewpoint over anything else and inadequately cite sources. The more you research media reliability and accuracy, the simpler it will be for you to spot problems with sources, selection, omission, and factuality. To help with this, you can use Biasly’s News Bias Checker to uncover reliability problems and assist you in finding the most accurate and dependable news.


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