Libraries worldwide have made a commitment to help their users and patrons improve their understanding of all kinds of literacies, including textual literacy, digital literacy, civic literacy, health literacy, financial literacy, and information/media literacy. This last type of literacy--the ability to "recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information"--is the focus of this LibGuide (quotation from the American Library Association, Presidential Committee on Information Literacy, 1989). See more about the American Library Association’s (ALA’s) commitment to literacy initiatives here.
At the time of this writing, anyone with an internet connection can create content that can be shared and can go viral faster than the time it takes to read this sentence. The internet does not require any of its content to be true or verifiable. Nothing on the internet is guaranteed to be a true statement, a logical claim, a commonly-held belief, or—now that AI-produced content exists—even produced by a human. This content often has no editors, no gatekeepers, and no referees.
However, internet-based content is not categorically bad, untrue, invalid, or wrong. Because of the openness of the internet, content creators and consumers can connect and exchange ideas online more freely than ever before and in real time.
So what can a savvy searcher do to determine what online content is good, what is bad, and what is just plain ugly?
While there are no shortcuts to checking claims or facts found everywhere, there are some strategies and resources that we can share with you to make your search for information smoother. Click the blue boxes at the left of your screen (on a computer) or at the top of your screen (on mobile devices) to dive deeper.
A brief glossary of some key terms regarding searching can be found below (under Some Key Terms for the Savvy Searcher). Because of the speed at which the online world changes, this list is by no means complete.
|bias||prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.||Oxford Languages|
|clickbait||(on the internet) content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page.||Oxford Languages|
|confirmation bias||the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one's existing beliefs or theories.||Oxford Languages|
|deepfake||a video of a person in which their face or body has been digitally altered so that they appear to be someone else, typically used maliciously or to spread false information.||Oxford Languages|
|disinformation||deliberately misleading or biased information; manipulated narrative or facts; propaganda||Dictionary.com|
|filter bubble||an environment and especially an online environment in which people are exposed only to opinions and information that conform to their existing beliefs||Merriam-Webster.com|
|go viral||if a video, image, or story goes viral, it spreads quickly and widely on the internet through social media and email.||Collins Dictionary.com|
|misinformation||false information that is spread, regardless of intent to mislead||Dictionary.com|
|parody||an imitation of the style of a particular writer, artist, or genre with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect.||Oxford Languages|
|satire||the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.||Oxford Languages|
|troll||a troll is Internet slang for a person who intentionally tries to instigate conflict, hostility, or arguments in an online social community.||GCF Global|