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Lies, Damn Lies and the Internet

The Myth of Knowledge on the Internet

The internet is the most important information revolution since the printing press..... the worlds data centres are open for everyone to access..... free knowledge for all, at the touch of a button! I think not!

Hmmm.. yes, the internet had become a part of all our lives over the last few years, e-mail, ebay, browsing, downloading music, etc, but can we trust what we read on the internet? How do we know that Google, Yahoo, MSN et al are guiding us to the truth? (By the way I'm not going to get into a discussion about what "the truth" is - I'll leave that for another time.)

If you go into your local bookstore, or library, and want to find out a historical fact, or maybe how to do something, you find the relevant section, browse through the books, and buy the one you want. You can read reviews in advance if you like, or ask the shop-owner or librarian, but you can be pretty sure that what you are buying will have some accuracy, if maybe a skewed point of view.

Ok, ok I can hear what you are saying. There are thousands of books out there that are inaccurate and full of lies, and some of them are best-sellers, but this is all about relativity. It takes a lot of money to write, publish and distribute a book, so most tend to have a facet of truth in them, or a bit of accuracy.

You can make and market internet pages for free. Free web-hosting, free links, with no peer inspection or accuracy checking. How do you know that what I've written about in this website is true? How do you know that I haven't just made it all up to make money from advertising? You don't.

You might say that other people link to this site, so they must think its ok. Sorry, but when reciprocal linking nobody checks the accuracy on other sites. You may have a quick look round to see its not a scraper or MFA site, but as long as it seems to have original content relevant to your own, that link goes up.

Manual Search-Engine Internet indexing like DMOZ do address this issue, but they are incomplete and open to abuse. Computer based search-engines cannot distinguish between truth and lies. They have a hard enough job filtering out rubbish sites that simply have copied other peoples work to gain revenue through adverts.

So what's my conclusion? Forget the internet as a source of knowledge and information? No, but take everything you read or see with a pinch of salt. Use trusted resources, always get second or third opinions from other sites, and if in doubt get down your local library, they're crying out for new members!


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