Don’t believe everything you read – including from me

One of the best things about the Internet is how we can all publish our opinions via blog or social networking site or video.

One of the worst things about the Internet is how we can all publish our opinions and call them facts and people believe them.

You saw it last year during the election and you’re seeing it again with the health care reform debate. I’ve been appalled at the misinformation, half-truths, and outright lies at what healthcare reform will or will not do.

And before you jump to any conclusions as to my political leanings – let me add that I’ve seen misinformation on both sides. I also just got a bill from my health insurance company informing me that our premium was going up over $200 a quarter. Reform looks really good to me.

But I digress.  Here’s my librarian-inspired list of how to be a bit more critical of the tons of data that come at you via the web and forwarded to you from well-meaning friends.

1. Check the “About us” section of a website to see who’s behind the rhetoric. Do they say they’re bipartisan, conservative, liberal, liberterian, or whatever?

2. Rather than believe everything they tell you on the “About Us” page, Google the name of the group to see if they’ve been in the news. Consider the news sources as well. Fox News? Unfair and unbalanced. New York Times? Liberal, liberal, liberal. (I always think of Bob Dole when I hear that.) Jon Stewart? Really funny and liberal. Rush Limbaugh? Also really funny is twisted, sick, sort of way. Blogger? Read some of his/her other posts to see what else they’ve written. And take everything with a grain of salt.

3. Check to see if your info has hit urban myth status.

4. When was the info published? Whatever you’re reading might be old and out of date.

5. It could also be satire. How many times have you heard a story about people thinking something written in The Onion was true? (I’d just like to believe it’s true.) Apparently this also happens with The Colbert Report.

6. And still be critical about what videos you see on YouTube and what get’s forwarded to you by your friends. Before I worked on a newspaper, I thought the news was brought to us by people who had the ultimate authority and were trustworthy above all. The reality is that it’s brought to us by individuals who may or may not have agendas and a particular reason for wanting to slant information one way or another. It’s up to us to sort through the crap.