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Evaluating Information Sources: Challenges of online information

Online tutorial developed to help build skills in evaluating the quality of information sources

Challenges of online information

While the internet has revolutionised the way that people can access the world's information and knowledge; there are a number of challenges with searching for information online.

One such challenge is navigating the sheer amount of information that is available online. Never in human history have we had the ability to access so much information at such a speed. While having all this at our fingertips is truly amazing, it makes it increasingly difficult to identify good quality, reliable sources amongst the vast sea of online information. 

Two challenges that you may have heard about more regularly are those posed by Fake News and Filter Bubbles, which we look at in more detail below.

Filter Bubbles

The phrase 'Filter Bubble' refers to an online environment where a user's search results and social media feeds become personalised, often unknowingly to an extent that they are viewing information within a virtual bubble. 

Search engines and social media  sites use algorithms to tailor your results and news feeds based on factors like your location, online behaviour,  search history and the activity of your social media friends and contacts.

Consequently, two people can run the same search on Google and each be presented with a different set of search results. 

The potential danger of Filter Bubbles, is that they can create echo chambers, where the only content that you see, particularly on social media, is that which agrees with and reinforces your existing views. If echo chambers persist, the user is not exposed to alternative perspectives on a range of issues, potentially making it difficult to understand and reach compromises with people of other views.

For more on Filter Bubbles, check out Eli Pariser's now famous TED talk: Beware Online "Filter Bubbles".

Take a look at this short video from the BBC, which looks at some simple steps you can take to try and break out of your Filter Bubble. 

You can also try things like deleting your search histories and browser cookies, which help to feed search algorithms.

The future...

Just in case Fake News and Filter Bubbles did not seem challenging enough. This short video from Good Morning America highlights the challenges that Deepfake videos are likely to provide us with in the not too distant future.

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