Be media smart! Assessing online information in 5 steps

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How do you know if the information you’re getting online is right? Follow these steps:

  1. Go to sites from established institutions

    Go to sites by government agencies, schools, non-profit organizations and well-known businesses. Legitimate sites have an About Us page. You will find who owns the site, the rules they follow and the people who write content. They are accountable for what is on the site. Go to 10 websites every Manitoban newcomer should bookmark for examples of reliable webpages.

  2. Check if it’s a legitimate website

    To check if a website is reliable:

    • See if it looks professional – Does it look good? Are the photos and text arranged well?
    • Check the URL – Look at the website address. Look for “https” at the start of the address if you will share personal information on the website. Look for the Privacy Policy. Academic sites end with “.edu”. Government sites end in “.gov”. Canadian sites will have “.ca” at the end. The extension“.com” means that it is a commercial site.
    • Errors – Read the content. If there are typographical, grammatical and spelling errors, don’t use the site.


    Evaluating websites from GCSCL Library

  3. Don’t believe everything you read online

    Use your critical thinking skills to check information. Ask these questions:

    • Is it advertising or selling something? The information may be false to convince you to buy a product or service.
    • Is the author an authority or expert? Check if the source is an expert. Click on the name of the writer if it is hyperlinked. Read the writer’s credentials and other works.
    • Is this fact or opinion? Some articles are commentary or editorial. It will be based on the writer’s personal beliefs, feelings or opinions. They may not be based on facts.
    • Are the facts supported? Check the writer’s sources if it’s not an editorial. Highlight the text you want to check and right click. Click on the search engine. It will search for webpages where the information may be found. Use fact checking sites like Facts Can or Canada Archives- Factcheck.org.
    • When was it written? Some information may be outdated. They may not be applicable at the present time.
    • Is it satire? Satire is a writing technique where people’s faults are made fun of. These articles are not to be taken seriously. They are for entertainment. Read The Beaverton or The Onion for examples.
    • Use your common sense – Does it seem ridiculous or too good to be true? Then it might not be real. When the headline is sensational, it is usually click-bait.
  4. Don’t rely on Wikipedia

    Use Wikipedia if you want a general idea about a certain topic. Don’t use it for scholarly work, researches and reports. It is not a solid source. Wikipedia pages can be changed by anybody. It can contain facts as well as unverified information.

  5. Don’t share if not sure

    Don’t spread wrong information. It can damage your credibility. Don’t believe a post just because it has been shared many times. Read and think before you believe and share.

Bonus:
Try Factitious. It’s a free game. Test yourself if you can tell fake news from real news.

 
Sources: Media literacy and fake news, Kerry Gallagher, J.D. and Larry Magid, Ed. D., Connect Safely; How and why to avoid sharing fake news, Connect Safely; How to find a reliable online source, Canadian Encyclopedia; and How to spot real and fake news, Mind Tools. Retrieved February 7, 2019.

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