Having trouble finding what you need on the worldwide web? Do you trust all the information that is found when you do a search? You are not alone according to a new study conducted by Britannica site Procon.org.
Most also say, with varying degrees of conviction, that they often can’t tell if the information they find on the Internet is true or false.
Among the most significant findings were the following:
● Only 25% of respondents (mostly students) believed the Internet has not caused a decline in their attention span or ability to concentrate.
● Nearly 60% of respondents admitted difficulty in determining if information online was truthful; a whopping 43% believed much of the content on the Internet was outright false; and only 19% believed online information was true.
● An overwhelming 77% desired a more effective way of managing and filtering information on the Internet to differentiate among fact, opinion, and overt disinformation.
The survey was conducted in conjunction with an article on the effects of the Internet, both good and bad, on Britannica’s nonpartisan website ProCon.org, which researches and highlights the major arguments, pro and con, of contentious public issues. The site asked readers for their thoughts on how the Internet affects their brains and whether online information is reliable and trustworthy. The article and survey were a follow-up of sorts to Nicholas Carr’s now-classic article in The Atlantic (2008), “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” which raised troubling questions about what the Internet was doing to our intellects.
“So much has changed in the Internet ecosystem since Nick’s article more than a decade ago that we wanted to see how people were faring online today, in the era of bot farms, deep fakes and mass disinformation in general,” said Theodore Pappas, executive editor at Britannica. He said that the results are being released now for Internet Day, which is observed on May 17.
Given that fake information is a large and growing problem, Britannica recommends that publishers, media companies and content providers redouble their efforts to maintain high editorial standards and build reputations for trustworthiness with which consumers, educators, and students will feel comfortable.
The survey was conducted on the ProCon.org website between April 2021 and April 2022 with 13,403 respondents. To see the complete results, visit ProCon.org. The survey is ongoing, so users may still contribute their own responses by completing it at the site.