1 Why This Book?

When Tim Berners-Lee invented the web over thirty years ago, he envisioned an “open platform that would allow everyone, everywhere to share information, access opportunities and collaborate across geographic and cultural boundaries” [1].  In many ways, his vision has been realized; however, in the last few years he is concerned by three trends that are preventing the web from reaching its true potential.

One of the trends that Berners-Lee (World Wide Web Foundation, 2017) notes is the ease with which misinformation can spread on the web. Today, many of us get our information from social media sites and search engines. The very nature of these sites allows for the rampant spread of fake news and misinformation. Students need concrete strategies for tracing claims to sources and for analyzing the reliability of those sources.

The web gives us many strategies, tactics, and tools which can get students closer to the truth of a statement or image within seconds. The web is both the largest propaganda machine ever created and the most amazing fact-checking tool ever invented. But if we have not taught our students those fact-checking capabilities, is it any surprise that propaganda is winning?

This guide will show you how to use date filters to find the source of viral content, how to assess the reputation of a scientific journal, and how to see if a tweet is really from a famous person or an impostor. It will show you how to find pages that have been deleted and figure out who paid for the website you are reviewing.

You will learn how to check a Wikipedia page for recent vandalism and how to search the text of almost any print book to verify a quote. This guide will teach you to parse URLs and scan search result blurbs so that you are more likely to get to the right result on the first click. It will show you how to avoid baking confirmation bias into your search terms.

In other words, this guide will help you become “web literate” by showing you the unique opportunities and pitfalls of searching for truth on the web.

  1. World Wide Web Foundation. (2017, March 12). Three challenges for the web, according to its inventor. https://webfoundation.org/2017/03/web-turns-28-letter/


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Web Literacy for College Students 2nd Ed Copyright © 2020 by NSCC and Michael A. Caulfield is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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