Survival/prepper websites are a dime a dozen. To set up a survival website, all you have to do is buy a domain name and start posting. That’s what I did.
But how do you, the reader, tell if a survival site is providing valid information? Can you trust what you read or view?
by Leon Pantenburg
Can anyone verify the authenticity of a website? What about websites that rate other websites? How important are Google rating? How can you tell if a website is providing practical information or just plain BS?
You gotta wonder…so it was with great interest that I sat in on a journalism research class at Central Oregon Community College, in Bend, OR. The instructor was COCC Emerging Technologies Librarian Michele DeSilva, and the topic was how to verify web source information.
The problem, DeSilva said, is people assume that since something is on an internet website, that information has validity. But popularity does not mean quality, she commented, and publication is no guarantee of truth.
“A high Google rating does not mean a site provides good information,” she said. “It just means it’s popular and gets a lot of hits. ”
Some of the most popular Google-rated sites, she added, don’t have anything to do with truth, accuracy or verifiable knowledge.
Wikipedia is another source that should be avoided, she said, because there is no consistent overview or editing of the materials for sourcing or accuracy.
YouTube posts should be suspect, too, IMHO, because shooting angles, staging and carefully-timed camera angle cuts can cover up a multitude of inadequacies and lack of skill.
DeSilva recommends applying the following criteria to ANY website or source of information before you decide to trust it:
- Who is responsible for the website? What are the author or organization’s credentials? (Hint: if you have trouble determining who is responsible for the website, it’s probably not that credible!)
- Don’t rely on a site’s domain alone for determining a website’s credibility! Anyone can register an .org site, for any reason. .Edu sites can have student projects or really out-of-date pages. Many .com sites are excellent sources of information.
- One exception: .gov sites are reserved solely for U.S. government sites and are generally pretty credible (unless they are out of date, so be sure you know when the site was created and updated.)
- Look for an “about” page (or a “mission” or “purpose” page). What’s the purpose for this website? Is there a particular point of view that informs the Website?
- Is the website’s content up to date? When was content last posted? Where is content coming from? Is the author creating it or collecting content from other sites/sources? If the content is coming from other places, what, if any, value is added by the website you’re looking at?
- Some sites exist just to generate advertising revenue! They copy content from Wikipedia or other free, online sources just to drive traffic to their sites.
- Does the author cite his or her sources? Is his or her information verifiable?
- If the author is presenting something as his or her original research, what gives the author credentials, or expertise, in this area?
- Are there lots of spelling and grammatical errors on the website? Any obvious factual inaccuracies?
- How many ads are on the page? Are there lots of links to commercial sites that have little or no relation to the topic the website is about?
- A good site can have ads, of course; but, again, watch out for those sites that exist just for commercial purposes.
My journalism career has been based on accurate information. In the news world, information that can’t be verified can lead to a lawsuit. Publishing inaccurate info or passing off opinion as fact destroys your reputation and creditability, and can get you sued.
But in the survival/preparedness world, bad websites can be dangerous,and potentially life-threatening. What happens if you get some bad advice about a survival technique, for example, or buy equipment you can’t personally use, based on some charlatan’s recommendations?
You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to know better. Apply the above test to any website before you trust your safety and welfare to the information that may come from it.
And since you should be wondering, here are my credentials for writing this blog.