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Who, what, when, where, why and how
 

Look for clues to determine accuracy of information

Here are some factors to consider when evaluating information from the Internet. The advice comes from Anne Mintz, who compiles Web of Deception: Misinformation on the Internet with contributions from 10 colleagues.

 

  • Check facts first-hand by making phone calls.
  • Look for clues in the URL. Most sites have some bias, although it might be slight.
  • Stay alert if you encounter a URL with a slight deviation in the name, or if it is dot-org when you expected dot-com.
  • Find out who registered the site. Two places to check are www.register.com and www.netsol.com/cgi-bin/whois/whois. Research the group or person registered as owner.
  • Look for comic or incendiary language and lack of citation or authority on a site. Typos and grammatical errors are signs that an amateur wrote it. But don't let a well-written site mislead you; some biased sites look authentic.
  • Decide if information is presented in an objective manner. Beware of extremes.
  • Ask: Is the site current, accurate and in context? How often is the site updated?
  • Look at links. Does the site link to something that is legitimate to try to show that it is legitimate itself?
  • Use common sense. Decide if the site draws illogical conclusions.
  • Search smart. Use the advanced capabilities that search engines provide, such as domain searching. Use specialized search engines or meta-sites with holdings selected by librarians or other authorities in the field.
  • Check underlying pages and suspicious links.
  • Regularly visit Web sites that post hoaxes and urban legends, such as www.scambusters.org  and www.snopes.com. The Computer Incident Advisory Capability of the U.S. Department of Energy specializes in hoax Internet viruses and posts hoaxes at http://hoaxbusters.ciac.org.
  • Don't expect copyright laws or other regulations to protect legitimate sites from spoofs. Most organizations don't have the resources to go to court even to fight a scam site.

 

Web of Deception: Misinformation on the Internet, edited by Anne P. Mintz, CyberAge Books, 2002

 
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