The future of the Internet as a credible source of information is under threat due to the proliferation of spam and inaccurate information online, suggests Howard Rheingold, proposing that the most efficient way to counter this worrying trend is for “a great many people [to] learn the basics of online crap detection and begin applying their critical faculties en masse and very soon”.
To start, Rheingold offers what could be called a comprehensive introduction to online crap detection (critical thinking). I was won over by the introduction:
The answer to almost any question is available within seconds, courtesy of the invention that has altered how we discover knowledge – the search engine. Materializing answers from the air turns out to be the easy part – the part a machine can do. The real difficulty kicks in when you click down into your search results. At that point, it’s up to you to sort the accurate bits from the misinfo, disinfo, spam, scams, urban legends, and hoaxes. “Crap detection,” as Hemingway called it half a century ago, is more important than ever before, now that the automation of crapcasting has generated its own word: “spamming.”
Suggesting that “Who is the author?” is the root question, the article continues with links to essays and tools to aid in education and online researching before offering this on how important the issue is:
To me, the issue of information literacy could be even more important than the health or education of some individuals. Fundamental aspects of democracy, economic production, the discovery and use of knowledge might be at stake. Some of the biggest problems facing the world today seem to be far beyond the ability of any individual or community, or even the whole human race, to tackle. But the noise death of the Internet is something we can take on and win.