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Banner "Internet Course Guide," by Richard E. Gordon

Lesson 7A < Lesson 7B

Lesson 7B: Evaluating Webpages Continued

How can you protect yourself?

If you want to check out the reliability of information on website, it does, indeed, take some time and hard work. But if you are about to make medical or investment decisions based on Internet information, you'd better check it out or you may end up a lot sicker and poorer than before you visited the questionable website.

  1. Be skeptical
  2. Check out sources
  3. Check author's credentials
  4. Use fraud spotting sites
  5. Look at domain page
  6. Use reliable search sites

Be skeptical

Whenever you are viewing a website, especially dealing with a controversial subject, be suspicious that what you are reading may not be accurate. It is this skeptical mindset that will help to protect you from becoming an Internet victim of fraud and misinformation.

Check out sources

See if you can tell from the website who the author or organization is behind the website. Some sites purport to give factual information without even clearly identifying who is behind the site. You can't even begin to evaluate a site's credibility if you don't know who created it. Often you can find who is responsible for a site by looking for a link called About. Check out this site, for example, from the Librarians' Index to the Internet. Look at the About the LII at the top of the opening page. http://lii.org/

Check author's credentials

Once you have identified the author behind a site, you can use other Internet sources to check out the author's credentials. This credential-checking is especially important when it comes to health and safety issues. Say, for example, you have a family member suffering from diabetes. On a website, you read an article about a new treatment for diabetes -- a new treatment advocating a medicine called diabetrone. The doctor's name is Janice Charlatan , associated with Fictionale Hospital in Missouri.

Of course, you won't find Dr. Charlatan, diabetrone, or Fictionale Hospital listed on any of these sources. You might do well then to conclude that the site advocating the use of a diabetrone is a fraud.

Use fraud spotting sites

Several websites can help you spot Internet fraud and hoaxes. Here are three:

  1. Cliff Pickover's Internet Encyclopedia of Hoaxes http://sprott.physics.wisc.edu/pickover/pc/hoax.html
  2. Urban Legends and Folklore
    http://urbanlegends.about.com/
  3. Hoax warnings from F-Secure. Focuses on virus-warning hoaxes, especially in e-mail messages.
    http://www.f-secure.com/news/hoax.htm

Look at domain name page

You can often find out about a webpage source by looking at home domain name or home page of the website. Take, for example, another look at this website that identifies internet frauds.
http://www.f-secure.com/news/hoax.htm

One way to make sure that this fraud identification site is not a hoax itself is to see if you can determine what person or organization has created it. Always be suspicious of any information on a site whose author is not identified.

From the following screenshot, you will note that nothing in the browser's blue title bar and the top of the webpage makes the identity of the source clear. Often at the top of a webpage you will see a menu that includes a phrase-link About Us or Home and if you click on one of these links, you will arrive at a place where you can find out information about the creator of the site. Or often, too, at the bottom of a webpage -- as in this very Webpage you are now using to study the Internet -- you will see the name of the author and perhaps, too, an email address you can use to contact the author to find out more about the author's background.

Screen shot of top of f-secure hoax page

But as in the above case, when you cannot find out information about the source from a webpage, delete the words after the domain name and then press Enter to take you to the domain address which usually ends in .com, .org, ,edu or .net. You can see the domain name alone entered in the browser's address slot below. Note, too, how the blue title bar in the browser gives you more information about the business of the company that is behind this Website.

Screenshot browser address F-Secure.com

Once you are at this domain page -- often called the home page -- you will note an About Us link (as shown below) that will help you find out information about the source of the website in question. The most important point here is that when you are evaluating the reliability of a site, you should always check out the home or domain page.

screenshot of F-Secure's homepage

 

Importance of going to the Home page

Why is it so important to be able to get to the home page in a site? Because it is often this page that reveals the most detailed information about the source of a website.

Sometimes to see information on the source -- crucial to help determine the credibility of a site -- you have to get closer to the trunk of the site, also called the Home page or the domain page. Let's take another example. The address of this page you are now reading is http://www.gordonrichard.com/internet/lessons/les7beva.htm. To see information on the author, take a look at the domain name page at www.gordonrichard.com.

Who owns a site?

You can check out who owns a domain name by going to VeriSign..
http://www.networksolutions.com/whois/index.jsp

Often through VeriSign you will be able to learn the name and address of the person or company behind the site.And with the name and address available, if you wish, you can contact the site owner if you are trying to verify the credibility of a site. Certainly, if you checking out a new medication or medical procedure, you must take the extra effort to insure that the source of your information is reliable.

Use reliable search sites

    Most search sites only help you to discover webpages relating to the topic you are searching for, but these same search sites such as Google, Excite, Lycos, do little to verify that the sites or hits found for you actually give reliable, accurate information. But here are three search sites that have a good reputation for coming up with credible sources -- as reliable as the information you are likely to find in your own college or local library.

Resources

Here you will find additional information related to this lesson at these Internet sites. Other sources for all the lessons are found in the Links page.

Question Bank

Answer the Question Bank questions to make sure you have learned this lesson. Remember that your final exam will be made up of questions selected from this Question Bank.

Exercises

Be sure to do the Exercises for each lesson.
The next lesson is Lesson 8A.


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Last updated: July 8, 2006