Credibility of Internet Services
Nowadays we used the Internet for everything; Daily news, interactions with friends, exercise tips, exam preparations, etc. We all used to do these things offline with books, newspapers, and face-to-face conversations. We don’t see much of those things anymore.
Now I definitely advocate relying on internet resources for certain purposes because it is more convenient and efficient, but does it mean that all information on the internet is credible? Of course not.
According to a study conducted by Dr. Soo Young Rieh of the University of Michigan School of Information, there are two types of content that are consumed online (Rieh, 2014, p.6–7):
User-Generated Content (UGC) — Social Media, Blogs
Traditional Media Content (TMC) — Professional News Sites
Dr. Rieh also mentions the term “credibility construct”, “illustrating that individual users conceptualize and define credibility in their own terms and according to their own beliefs and understandings“ (Rieh, 2014, p.8).
For example, users generally seem to not care much about the “authoritativeness and expertise of the author” but still cared deeply about “trustworthiness, reliability, accuracy, and completeness” of the news they are viewing (Rieh, 2014, p.8).
The primary findings of the two empirical studies suggest that most internet users generally trust and rely more on TMC over UGC, but especially towards more serious topics such health and news while some prefer user feedback (reviews, ratings) for topics such as travel.
here are some limitations to these two studies. One study is based on diaries that the 333 respondents completed over three days, which can have reporting bias (individuals not reporting certain information) despite having the questions worded as neutral as possible.
The other study is lab-based with only 64 participants, and the data was based on exit interviews and self-reported data based on questionnaires. So while there are issues with this study, the basic conclusions are still valid.
Now I want to present some current examples of online information that people have easily believed as factual, but were actually false.
Facebook’s relatively-new trending news algorithm has been successfully trending thinly-credited news from untrustworthy sources such as Megyn Kelly being called a “traitor” and kicked out of FOX News for supporting Hillary Clinton (Ohiheiser, 2016) and “Sept. 11 attacks were a “controlled demolition” (Dewey, 2016).
Furthermore, a growing number of fake images have been going viral on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. While some of them are often comical, others can have serious influence on people’s political and social views.
Lastly, websites such as BuzzFeed are prime examples of “clickbait” headlines to articles that usually do not have much useful information in them but can interesting to read at times.
However, the combination of photos and videos from social media and short blocks of text is, admittedly, a very effective way to read certain type of news, such as current events. The articles can be updated while the event is happening.
Yes, these examples may not be scholarly, but that is my point. Much of what we read online is often unsubstantiated.
The Internet may be a great place for information to disseminate, and there are many different channels online for individuals to consume content. I think that certain types of content are suitable for certain types of sites, while other types of content may not be. Whether or not that information is factual is something that people will need to watch out for.
Ansari, T. (2016). Authorities arrest north Dakota Oil pipeline protesters after fire breaks out. Retrieved October 26, 2016, from USNews, https://www.buzzfeed.com/talalansari/sheriffs-dept-moves-in-to-remove-north-dakota-oil-pipeline-p?utm_term=.mnZEAdnBv#.lmVeP4axQ
Dewey, C. (2016, October 12). Facebook has repeatedly trended fake news since firing its human editors. Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2016/10/12/facebook-has-repeatedly-trended-fake-news-since-firing-its-human-editors/
Novak, M. (2016, July 25). 12 more viral images that are totally fake. Retrieved October 22, 2016, from http://gizmodo.com/12-more-viral-images-that-are-totally-fake-1783349626
Ohlheiser, A. (2016, August 29). Three days after removing human editors, Facebook is already trending fake news. Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2016/08/29/a-fake-headline-about-megyn-kelly-was-trending-on-facebook/?tid=a_inl
Rieh, S. Y. Credibility Assessment of Online Information in Context. Journal of Information Science Theory and Practice. 2014. Jul, 2(3): 6–17. DOI : http://dx.doi.org/10.1633/JISTaP.2014.2.3.1