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

Lesson 7A > Lesson 7B

Lesson 7A: Evaluating Web Pages -- Be sure to see Lesson 7B next.

Protecting yourself from Internet misinformation, hoaxes and deception

You get an e-mail warning you about a computer virus that is headed your way. It will scramble all the files on your harddrive and make your monitor flash obscene messages. The e-mail asks you to forward the message to all your friends and relatives.

You do a search on a terminal disease. One search result sends you to a site telling you that if you buy this new medicine, your paralysis will be over -- and you will soon be climbing mountains and kayaking rapids.

Beware! There is a good chance that both the e-mail message and the Web site are frauds. And such frauds, trickery, deception -- falsehoods of all types are common on the Internet, far more common than you would expect to find in your library, local chain bookstore, or your town newspaper. Why is the Internet so plagued with lies and misinformation? And what can you do to protect yourself?

Why is misinformation so common?

  1. Anyone can publish
  2. Could be coming from anywhere
  3. Here today, gone tomorrow
  4. Different clothes, same body
  5. Outdated information

Anyone can publish

Anyone with access to a computer and the Internet can become a published author -- published on the Internet, that is. And there are no librarians, newspaper owners, post office officials, or book publishers setting up and enforcing standards that all Internet writers must meet to get their work circulated around the world.

Could be coming from anywhere

Even if we had strict US censorship of Web sites -- which we don't -- the Web site you're seeing on your computer could be originating in a foreign country, from Cuba, Korea, Germany, Rumania, Russia, Barbados -- from anywhere.

Here today, gone tomorrow

If a Web site gets known for sending out falsehoods, the creators can make their site disappear when legal action is threatened -- or they can change their site's name and Web site address, and then reestablish the site with a new look, new name and address, and even a new country of origin. It's difficult to use any legal restraints on sites that can quickly evaporate and reappear at a new address, a new face, but with the same deceptive message.

Different clothes, same body

You could have multiple sites spewing forth the same lies, all with different names and addresses, but still originating from the same organization. And you could be fooled into thinking that the information must be accurate because it is coming from different sources when, in fact, it is coming from the same source disguised under different names and Internet addresses.

Outdated information

Remember that you could be looking at a Web site that was put on the Internet three years ago, and yet the creation date is not stated anywhere in the site. Certainly, evidence related to health issues -- medicines, treatments -- could soon become outdated.


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.


Be sure to do the Exercises for each lesson.
The next lesson is Lesson 7B

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Last updated: July 8, 2006