In the week 4 Networked Media symposium/lecture/spectacle, we discussed what to deem as valid, credible and trustworthy when it comes to the internet.
There is no rulebook or authority that deems exactly what is considered safe or dangerous, accurate or misleading, in terms of online content. The only effective analyser is us, and decisions are formed by our knowledge and experience. If my car breaks down, I’ll go to a mechanic. If I’m sick I’ll go to the doctor. If my keys were stolen by a wild monkey and need new keys made, I’ll go to a locksmith. We go to experts in their fields for assistance, because we trust that they know what they are doing based on a number of factors, including experience, knowledge, reputation, trust. This is not dissimilar to online content. I do not consider myself a professional at computer operations, but I am competent. Just like I am not a mechanic, but I know how to change engine oil. The level of knowledge we possess allows us to decide on the validity of certain, not all, things on the internet. I know that emails with incorrect spelling asking for me to transfer money to Nigeria are 99% of the time a scam, and that if a wikipedia article were to showcase outrageous claims such as “Polar Bears are named after their ability to climb poles”, I’d usually be able to detect that something wasn’t quite right. In the case where I am unsure, the best solution would be to do as I would do if my car broke down: contact an expert and find out (or in the case of a suspected fraud email, copy and paste in google and it will usually come up as such)
The simple indicators of internet claims accuracy are; the amount of people saying it, its platform and reputation. If one person says a rocket is about to hit, and starts running around, you assume he’s crazy or drunk. If a thousand people did it, you would be legitimately scared. Platform is the first step to judgement. I trust the NYtimes website’s information feed more than I trust my Facebook newsfeed, for example. Similarly, the website domain. A ‘.edu’ is usually a university or school, a ‘.gov’ is government. These are more reputable sources than regular ‘.com’s
Ultimately is centres largely on common sense. If something looks suspicious, it probably is. When in doubt, find out. If you’re not sure, research more. If you don’t know, consult a friend, not a foe. (sorry about that, the inner rapper is being released)