I can’t think of an academic paper I’ve written that hasn’t contained an information source from the Internet.
With access to the World Wide Web, it’s easy to get instantaneous information with a few quick swipes. Today, many of us rely on our mobile devices to obtain news, facts and other forms of journalism. Whether it’s from The New York Times, Twitter, Facebook or Buzzfeed, I personally get about 80 per cent of my news from the Internet. But how do I know what I’m reading is credible? In the past, newspapers and other propaganda forms were much harder to fact-check. Nowadays, with the glorious information galaxy that is the Internet, shouldn’t it be easier to fact-check everything and determine what is true or false?
I have to admit: sometimes I’ll read a headline or short snippet of information and automatically accept it as the truth. As you’ve probably seen online, information spreads like wildfire, and the world is constantly being bombarded by “news” posts. With all the information that we’re reading, it’s difficult to trace the source for every article we may stumble upon. If an article looks legitimate, or a news subject has been reposted by many people, it’s easy to get suckered in and believe what you’re reading. Take The Onion, for example. This news satire company posts legitimate-looking articles on a professional website that has a large following. To the new reader, The Onion looks like a credible news source.
Image from Google Images
While fact-checking everything you read on the Internet is definitely not ideal, it’s important to do so for relevant pieces of news. While you may not need to sleuth the World Wide Web for whether chocolate pancakes really do taste better than peanut butter pancakes (unless you’re writing an academic paper about it!), it’s important to be aware of false news and unreliable sources. Here are 3 tips for fact-checking:
Visit a website’s “About” tab. Is it a satirical site or a legitimate news source?
Find out more about the author. Google search their name and visit their social media pages to determine whether they are credible journalists.
Lastly, verify false photos. Sometimes photos can be deceiving as well, such as falsely accompanying a caption or headline. You can drag photos into the Google search bar, which will confirm the origin and context of the photo.