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Thing #17 – Check Your Facts

November 28, 2010

WHAT

Remember back in Week 1, when we were doing Thing #4—setting up your blog? Remember how easy it was to do? All you had to do was fill out a form and you had a little piece of the Internet to call your very own. You can type whatever you want on your blog, and anyone who wants to read it can. No one is watching what you do and making sure you’re being completely honest and accurate. So when you’re reading other blogs and websites, how do you know if you’re reading something that’s not true?

Snopes.com and FactCheck.org are good, reputable websites to use to see if you’re reading the truth.

Snopes is a website that discusses urban legends, email forwards and other Internet stories that are of uncertain origin. Snopes lists the complete story in question and then gives verifiable facts on its validity. The New York Times recently wrote an article about Snopes.

FactCheck describes itself as “a nonpartisan, nonprofit ‘consumer advocate’ for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.”

FactCheck only focuses on political information while Snopes looks at uncertain stories in all subject areas.

WHY

Think about emails you get. No, not personal or work emails. Those other kinds of emails. The ones that have been forwarded to you from your friend. Who got it from another friend. Who got it from her husband. Who got it from his boss. You probably have to scroll down a bit to see the message, and the subject has a bunch of FW:FW:fw:fw:FW: in it.

Sound familiar? Do you ever wonder if the things that you’re reading online are true? Well, you should. No one is fact checking everything that is being put on the Internet or sent over email, which leads to simple statements being embellished and their original messages being turned around. Diane Henderson says it better than I can—read her article.

I’m sure that you don’t want to continue to spread these incorrect facts either, so just take an extra few minutes and check for yourself on Snopes.com or FactCheck.org to see if they are true. Both sites have a search box to make this easy! Just type in a few keywords and see what comes up.

HOW

Take a look at the 25 Hottest Urban Legends compiled by Snopes. There is even an RSS feed if you want to stay up to date on the latest rumors. Choose one of the categories to look through or search to see if something you’ve read is discussed by Snopes. This can be addictive!

Browse the articles on FactCheck to see if they are discussing anything you’ve heard about recently or search to see if something you’ve heard is accurate.

SHARE

Did you read anything that surprised you? Why do you think it’s so easy for rumors to spread so quickly online? Do you think it’s important to check if things you read online are true? Why or why not? Name this blog post Thing #17.

STRETCH

Do it yourself!  Learning how to evaluate websites and web pages is a critical skill for doing our own research and for helping patrons with theirs.  Look at these two web pages to learn more about how to do this on your own.

Evaluating Websites

Five Criteria for Evaluating Web Pages

Read more about Snopes from other media outlets. Read about the awards that FactCheck has won.

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