There is no doubt that Internet is an incredibly useful resource. But, at the same time, it shelters home to a huge chunk of misleading information. It isn’t that only personal and not-so-popular websites tend to do slip-ups, or generate false stories, over the past few years we have seen many mainstream network biting the dust as well.

How do you know the thing you are reading is correct? What are some of the most common misleading stories? What do experts have to say about this? We document some instants and examples below.

75-20-5 Rule

“Don’t believe everything you read. Or anything, really.”

internet-lies

Famous technology columnist MG Siegler after reading tons of news stories in his spare time, said he started sensing a pattern. He then formulated and proposed a new theory, which he called “75 – 20 – 5”.

He states that on any given day, 75% of what you read in the tech press is somewhat accurate; 20% is complete bullshit, and 5% is actually true. In his article he has cited some shrilling examples to pinpoint that “5%” of garbage spread by some reputed publications.

This wasn’t the first time Mr Siegler made us raise our eyebrows. Just last year as a reply to a tweet where Marco Arment was pointing how the technology publication Gizmodo is only citing the articles by The Verge, Siegler said, to catch the rewrites, he himself used to “plant one really weird bit of information (sometimes even false) into stories.”.

Wait? What?

Rewrite is a rampant thing in the tech universe, but changing facts to mess around is just an utter deviousness. Though, we are sure that it was a playful intention, the point is how things you read is produced.

When social media gets it wrong

Evidently, loss of lives and a number of injuries were not the only reasons why the tragic event at Boston will be remembered for. Social media showed its ugly face that day. Reddit, one of the biggest website in the world played a notorious role in framing an innocent boy as the suspect number 2 behind the blast. One user came up with a loosely formed theory, and in the race to be the first and aggregate more “page views”, hundreds of thousand publications didn’t take a time to “report” the story. Several journalists used Twitter to share their personal opinion, and it all became a snowball which just kept on rolling and becoming bigger.

At last, when the truth and final evidence proved them wrong, the people who played disreputable role in doing bad journalism, had nothing better than blaming the system,

“Breaking-news reporting has always been chaotic, and it’s more so now because the overall volume of misinformation, loosed by millions on Reddit and Twitter, has ballooned out of control.”

This was not the first time when the social media was misused, and sadly it certainly won’t be the last. News reporting requires various skills, one of which is fact checking, these are the factors that make a news source more credible and accountable than others.

I’m not against the social media, or Twitter, or Reddit for helping in breaking the news, they are undoubtedly very commendable sources for learning news stories, but at times, things do tend to go the other side. Whether it’s a misleading headline, or a rumored story, or a half-baked post, you must not trust everything.

Trouble with Wikipedia

It’s no secret that Wikipedia isn’t 100% accurate. But what most of us don’t know about the sixth most popular website on planet is that it too has been reported to indulge in malpractice. Whether it’s stuffing things to score higher in the race of SEO, or editing things to make some money, Wikipedia has been caught red-handed numerous of times. For instance, check out the description of Untrikiwiki.

Wikipedia-service

Tim Stevens, Editor-at-Large with CNET, shared with us his opinion on this matter.

In general I feel like Wikipedia is a very reliable source for information. While there have been some notable errors and intentionally misleading entries, in general studies have shown Wikipedia is more accurate than traditional encyclopedias. However, it’s important to take the time to look at the citations of a given Wikipedia entry. They’re all very easy to find and it usually only takes a few moments to verify anything. This is time well-spent when you absolutely must be sure.

Internet will show you what you want to see

The Internet jam-packs over billion of web-pages. While there are a good number of stories and information coming out from reliable sources, there are enough personal opinions, and erratic content floating around as well. The problem with such thing is, that whatever you search on Google, odds are there will be enough pages supporting that.

Internet is what you want it to be

Hoaxes, and more hoaxes

And at last, thanks to social media, hoaxes have become a very common thing to cite on the web. Whether it’s Morgan Freeman’s death, or Samsung paying $1-bn fine in nickels, there are enough things that Internet would want you to believe.

Sam Bowne, Professor at City College San Francisco, and a very renowned name in the computer security world, spoke to us and shared his opinion,

Many websites have inaccurate information. I’ve found Wikipedia to be very accurate on technical issues, however. But on political, social, or religious issues, it’s far less accurate, because groups deliberately poison the pages to further their agendas. This issue got so bad, Wikipedia blocked the US Congress from making edits in 2006:

Everyone using the Internet needs to learn to judge the quality of information, and be skeptical. But by consulting multiple sources, learning which publications and authors are more reliable, and using hoax-revealing sites like Snopes.com, a careful researcher can avoid most deceptions.

In my opinion, the Internet is extremely valuable as a source of information, and contributes greatly to the education of people, despite its inaccuracies and abuses.

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Author

Manish is pursuing a degree in Computer Science and Engineering but spends more time in writing about technology. He has written for a number of Indian and international publications including BetaNews, BGR India, WinBeta, MakeTechEasier, MediaNama, and Digit magazine among others. When not writing, you would find him ranting about the state of digital journalism on Twitter.