If it’s on the internet it must be true, right? Well, maybe not. Anyone can create a website and put information on the internet, whether it’s true or not. The internet is a valuable source of information, but we must be cautious to ensure the information is correct. Here are some ways to check for factual information.

Who Wrote It? The author should be clearly identified and their credentials should be relevant to the topic.

Who Distributed It? Look to see who distributed the information and why it was distributed. Sometimes the information has an ulterior motive or may be trying to sell you a product. Some companies may even conduct their own research and only give you the information that makes them look good.

How Are the Claims Supported or Fact Checked? Even in articles or websites written by reputable sources, the author may show bias, so it’s a good idea to check multiple sources. You can spot check the article or website by comparing it to other reputable sources and peer-reviewed data.

Who Sponsored It? A website sponsor with an interest in making a profit is not likely to give balanced information. Website sponsors will often appear in the “about us” section and indicate who the website is sponsored by?

Is the Information Up to Date? Check to see when the information was written or when it was last updated.

What is the Web Address? The ending of a web address can give you clues to the reliability of the information. A website ending in .gov means that the website is owned and operated by the government. No one but the government can use .gov. These websites have a high credibility rating. A website ending in .edu is affiliated with universities, colleges, and educational sites. Usually you can feel safe about the trustworthiness of the content. These websites have a high credibility rating. A website ending in .org was originally set up for non-profit organizations and mostly used by non-profits. For-profit organizations can also use this domain. Websites ending in .org have a moderate credibility rating. Websites ending in .com or .net are open for public use. These are usually commercial sites trying to make a profit or offer opinion-based information. While these websites may have some factual materials, their credibility rating is low and you should read with caution.

Does it Contain “Absolute” Words? “Absolute” words or sensational statements are often referred to as clickbait. They are written to get your attention quickly and cause a reaction. Some examples of absolute words are ultimate, extreme, breakthrough, and conclusively.

With all the information available to us, it’s important to take time to look for the facts. Before you share something, make sure it’s accurate and credible.

For more information on this or other family topics, contact Shelly Barnes, family and consumer sciences Extension agent for UT Extension in Wilson County. Barnes may be reached at sphill24@utk.edu or ‪615-444-9584 ext. 105.

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