In a chilling article titled Google, Democracy and the Truth About Internet Search, the Guardian addresses the dangerous situation of researchers relying on false “facts,” which can be posted by anyone on the internet, that then are memorialized in scholarship and that, in turn, are remembered by search algorithms as if they were legitimate results. The example given, postings that state that “jews are evil,” is traced to show how reliance and continuous clicking on the search results in these postings became generally accepted information.
We have all said this at least once: maybe, again, we were better off in the past, when people wrote books and used libraries; when we had to think critically and assess for ourselves rather than blindly relying on search results structured to push results with increased clicks, even if fake.
Many libraries and information professionals offer guidance on good practices for evaluating websites and their accuracy. Among some of the basic criteria to consider are accuracy (fact checking), authority (who authored the piece), currency (how out of date is it), objectivity (detectable bias/purpose), and coverage (how comparable to other writing on similar topic).
- Carole Cadwalladr, Google, Democracy and the Truth About Internet Search, The Guardian (Dec. 4, 2016).
- Wynne Davis, Fake or Real? How to Self-Check the News and Get the Facts, NC NPR All Tech Considered (Dec. 5, 2016).
- Jim Rutenberg, Media’s Next Challenge: Overcoming the Threat of Fake News, New York Times (Nov. 6, 2016).
- Sabrina Tavernise, As Fake News Spreads Lies, More Readers Shrug at the Truth, New York Times (Dec. 6, 2016).
- Sapna Maheshwari, How Fake News Goes Viral: A Case Study, New York Times (November 2016).