In Search of Truth, on the Internet
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Is it true?
There’s no more important question to ask yourself when you’re online. Truth telling has never been a requirement for providing information online. Standards for online accuracy, to a large extent, don’t exist.
As a general rule, the real-time communication that takes place in instant messaging sessions and chat rooms is the least reliable. One level up in terms of reliability are Usenet newsgroups, Web forums, and other discussion groups in which people have more time to ponder their posts. Web sites are generally more reliable than discussion groups because they have more permanence, so more care goes into compiling the information on them.
It’s a reality of the online world that anybody can play expert, and many do. For instance, you frequently see laypeople playing lawyer, offering legal opinions about complicated subjects and advising others what’s legal and what’s not, when it’s clear that all they’ve done is Googled to a statute or court case and don’t have a clue how to interpret its meaning or what its limitations are.
Gatekeepers as Truth Tellers
Even with those who don’t pose as experts, less fact-checking typically happens online because of the conversational nature of discussion groups and because the Internet operates without the gatekeepers of the traditional media, who require a certain level of expertise and professionalism.
Traditional print and el…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).
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