Evaluating Bias in Online Information

by Barbara J. Feldman on June 6, 2008

What are common biases we deal with today? Some bias remarks are very clear like racism, sexism, elitism, favoritism and of course ethnic discrimination. Intelligence, beauty, physical ability and religious biases are all present as well. Bias can also be part of a point of view that includes personal preference, politics, and likes and dislikes. Bias also includes promoting a certain lifestyle or social and cultural status. Most information is biased. How to evaluate information for level of bias is an important part of being educated on what you are reading. When researching or reading information, how do you know if the material is bias to the author or to someone else? Here is how to evaluate biases in information:

Determining if a Web site or other printed material is biased or not can sometimes be difficult if you don’t know what to look for. There are many guidelines to follow when determining if information is biased or not.

Biased information is rarely neutral. Every writer wants to prove his point, and will use the data and information that helps him accomplish this. When evaluating information found for bias, it is important to see who is providing the information you are viewing, and what might be their point of view or bias.

First, be aware that organizations, businesses, and individuals represent their own viewpoints. If organizations or businesses have a particular mission in mind, then they may publish only information that supports their point of view. Businesses may only publish positive reviews of their own products instead of the pros and cons of them. If you are looking at a corporate Web site, assume that the information on the corporation will present it in the most positive view. If you are looking at products produced and sold by that corporation, remember that you are most likely looking at an advertisement.

Second, look to see if what the author is saying is deviating from the truth, applying his personal prejudices, opinions, or thoughts. Also, look to see if the author has an unfair judgment or distortion in favor of or against the topic they are discussing. These things will help you to see the truthfulness of the information.

Third, does this document reside on the Web server of an organization that has a clear point with the issue discussed? If you are reading about a political figure at the Web site of another political party, then you are definitely reading the opposition. Does this document reside on the Web server of an organization that has a political or philosophical agenda? Or, is it from the political party you are reading about?

Fourth if you are looking for something specific then do you trust the information given? If you are looking for some scientific information, would you trust a political organization to provide it? Different extreme points of view are not always easy to detect. Some sites promoting these particular views may look educational. Much of the research that is done often deals with very controversial questions. A lot of times the more controversial an issue is, the more interesting it is to the reader.

Keep in mind, when looking to see if the news from any media source is biased is a little more difficult. News reporters on television are often biased and many people follow these opinions. Many service providers are reporting on things that may not all be true, because they also get their information based on the bias of others, but this provides for a larger audience.

How to evaluate biases in information is important to understand. You need to be aware of what is true, or what just someone’s opinion is. When evaluating biases in information, it is important to remember that everyone has an opinion. Especially when looking at the Internet, understand that a lot of the websites are self published and don’t require any concrete evidence to back up what the author is saying. Following these guidelines will ensure you are getting the true information from reliable sources.

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Cite This Page

Feldman, Barbara. "Evaluating Bias in Online Information." Surfnetkids. Feldman Publishing. 6 Jun. 2008. Web. 29 Nov. 2014. <http://www.surfnetkids.com/tech/1404/evaluating-bias-in-online-information/ >.