Trustworthiness of information

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Over the years, the internet has continued to grow rapidly. Not only has it been experiencing growth in the number of users, but it also increased the application of services delivered through the internet. Increased internet usage has led to the generation of a lot of information coming from different activities and services being offered through the internet. However, with many parts of the internet not being regulated, it is clear that not all information available on the internet is trustworthy. Increased use of various sites within the internet, including social media sites, has led to increased propagation of fake news and other information intentionally provided to mislead users [1] Also, a user can find an endless amount of information related to anything they could imagine simply by browsing the internet. The truth is that there is no shortage of individuals who question the trustworthiness of online information. However, various methods are being used to assess the trustworthiness of the information available online. Highly popular sources of information such as Wikipedia required to be tested using measures like comparative reviews, analyzing historical patterns, etc.

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Defining trustworthiness of information

There is no specific definition of the trustworthiness of information. However, existing definitions of trustworthiness may be explained concerning information found on the internet. According to Cheruvalath, trustworthiness should contain four key components, including transferability, credibility, confirmability, and dependability. When evaluating trustworthiness, credibility refers to information coming from a source that is regarded to provide such information. Transferability means that the information may be transferred from a source to another without losing its original content or message. Confirmability means that the information may be checked for credibility, and dependability shows that the information is reliable for use.

Trustworthiness of information issue

One of the key reasons for individuals to question the trustworthiness of online information is that they are editable. That means the information available on sources like Wikipedia can be edited by users. By making such a feature available, the editors of those platforms expect to keep that information up-to-date all the time. However, the same feature becomes a drawback especially because of the irresponsible behavior of the users. Since anyone can edit existing information on Wikipedia, cases like conflicted or revenge editing have become commonplace. Users purposely enter false information, defamatory or even highly biased information, especially into biography type information. As a result, a person who refers to such a block of information will trust wrongful information. When it comes to articles related to scientific information, the accuracy of the ones available in Wikipedia is pretty similar to the contents in Encyclopedia Britannica. This was revealed by a journal called Nature according to a study they have conducted. However, officials of Encyclopædia Britannica denied the statement made by Nature. As a response to the dispute, Nature provided a formal response by emphasizing the errors that were published in Britannica


Back in 2008 and 2012, there were comparisons to get an idea about the trustworthiness and the credibility of Wikipedia articles. In those comparisons, they covered areas such as toxicology, pharmaceuticals, pathology, psychiatry, and oncology. Those articles were compared with sources that were reviewed by professionals and peers in the respective fields. At the end of the comparison, those professionals claimed that the articles available in Wikipedia were high in standards and credible enough. However, as per a study published by ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncology), the overall readability of those articles was questioned.

There are some cases in which false information has lasted for a couple of months. One example is that one editor created a misleading article about a well-known journalist and a writer called John Seigenthaler back in May 2005. Surprisingly, the false article remained undeleted for about four months. Another example is a completely fictional article written about a person called "Léon-Robert de L'Astran". This article was published in the French version of Wikipedia. He was introduced as an anti-slavery ship owner who lived in the 18th century. The article existed for a long period and even some well-known politicians tended to praise L’Astran who had never existed.

The truth is that even Wikipedia doesn’t take it as a trustworthy source of online information. A large number of academics tend to deny the trustworthiness of Wikipedia. However, the information available on that platform can be considered as an ignition for particular research. The reliable ‘appearance’ of Wikipedia articles is given by the reliable sources of information that are used within the context.

Situations prompting the need to consider the trustworthiness of information

Currently, various incidences should make anyone using the internet to consider whether the information available may be trusted or not.

Fake news

there has been a widespread increase in fake news being propagated through the internet. Malicious people may propagate fake news for different reasons, including causing chaos, influencing the decisions of people, and changing the perception of a person depending on the objectives of the fake news[2]


Click baits

these are images, titles, and links on the internet designed to attract new people to visit a particular site or page that is different from the image or title being displayed to the user.

Online scams

online scams have been on the rise over the years. They may come in different forms, but the result mainly leads to people losing their money or not getting value for their money, depending on the type of scam. A popular scam that most people have ever encountered is a popup claiming that they have won a price while in the real sense [3]

Information filters

this issue is predominantly on social media where people are given illusions of fake images and fake lifestyles. When using social media, it is critical to try and evaluate what is filtered and what is not.

Criteria for evaluating the trustworthiness of information

The following criteria should be followed when determining whether the information is trustworthy or not.

Determining source realiability

Ensure that you use reliable sites and pages to take information

using reliable sites and applications provides a person with a higher chance of accessing trustworthy information than using sites that are not reliable. Credible sites are those widely acknowledged by reliable people and institutions to provided trustworthy information [4]Some sites to consider credible include government websites, credible non-governmental organization websites such as the European Union, world health organization, and IEEE. These are not the only credible sites but rather a few. The most vital factor is to determine whether the site is owned by a credible institution, body, or person.

Evaluating statistics

when evaluating statistical information, it is necessary to evaluate whether the information provided adds sup, and makes sense to you. In some cases, you may need to do some calculations to determine whether the information makes sense.

Evaluate the page/site

it is vital to evaluate the content of a page/ site to determine whether the information provided within it is trustworthy or not. A criterion that should be used in evaluating the content of a site or page includes evaluating the accuracy of the information, appropriateness of images, and the comprehensiveness of the materials covered within the page.

Mainly go information from primary sources

in most cases, information from primary sources is authentic, and credible thus may be trustworthy.

Concluding remarks

The internet has continued to grow over the years and will continue to do so in the future. However, there has been an increase in unreliable and untrustworthy information as a result of fake news, click baits and filtered information. It is thus, necessary to evaluate whether the information being provided is trustworthy or not. A criterion for doing this includes using reliable sites as a source of information, evaluating statistics, evaluating a page or site, trusting intuition, and mainly going for information as provided by the primary source. If you find one article on something, you can perform more research and check the information that supports or deny the context. After all, there is no shortage of sources for anyone to use on the internet.


  1. Cheruvalath, R. (2017). Internet Neutrality: A Battle Between Law and Ethics. International Journal for the Semiotics of Law - Revue internationale de Sémiotique juridique, 31(1), 145-153. doi:10.1007/s11196-017-9531-z
  2. Kriel, C. (2018). Fake News, Fake Wars, Fake Worlds. Defence Strategic Communications, 3(1), 171-189. doi:10.30966/2018.riga.3.6
  3. How to Find Reliable Information on the Internet. (2016, July 10). Retrieved from
  4. Trustworthy Internet. (2011). doi:10.1007/978-88-470-1818-1.