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Evaluating Sources: Finding the Bias

Find out who is providing the content and why. Get information from different sources. Be skeptical.

Domain gives you the first clue to website bias.

If a website is from a business or institution with a reputation to protect - the content will be monitored and more accurate than a website authored by someone with nothing to lose.

Domain gives you the first hint of purpose:

.gov domain
Money comes from - taxpayers, for-fee services
Mission: Justify expenses and provide information that helps improve economy, staying within available budget.

.edu domain must be an educational institution "Registration of a .edu domain is limited to accredited degree-granting institutions of higher learning. The registration and administration of .edu domains is managed by EduCause. "
Money comes from - tax payers, student tuition, donations, grants from government and corporate sources, for fee services
Mission: Student retention, students success, staying within available budget, maintain reputation for excellence.

.com domain Honestly commercial. May provide a lot of great content.  May provide worthwhile for-fee resources and/or services. 
Money comes from - customers
Mission: Make money. 

.org and .net  Gray area.  Not regulated.  May be a front for a commercial or ideological agenda.  May be non-profit. harder to track where money is coming from. Missions vary. 

The reason for existence creates bias...Follow the money!

Website owners often provide bait (free resources) to generate income by: 
1) attracting you to their for-fee services & resources 
2) they make money from selling space to advertisers
3) they get a cut of the profit from click-ads

Look for the reason something is published

Bias is not all good or all bad,  but it is usually self-serving.

Generic student image Education related webpages (.edu) and American Flag government webpages (.gov) generally are authored by people doing "work for hire" which means they don't own the copyright to the content, their employer does.

They are paid by their employer for their time. (Their bias is to keep their job, and not embarrass themselves or their employers professionally.)

Some websites generate money by acting as an organizer for other sellers.(Their bias is commercial...they want you to come back for the ease of access.)  
Amazon.com is the most famous one.
Amazon.com

Some websites generate money by selling products.
a dressgarden tools
(Their bias is commercial...they want to convince you to buy their product, showing it in a positive light or even to airbrushed perfection.)

Some websites make money by making it easy for advertisers to target an audience. They generate money with click-ads, where every time an ad is "clicked", they get some money.
 medical stuff knitting stuff
Health and craft websites are common examples. 
(Bias: They have an incentive to provide popular and easy-to-use content to keep you coming back for more.)

 

Many websites are just Wikipedia content put in the center "bait" position and then surrounded by click adds.

Some websites auto-fill their website with content from other websites such as Wikipedia, instead of creating their own content. (These are usually just trying to get click-ad money, they do not care if the information is accurate or not.) 

Be careful:
Whenever a website asks you to identify yourself with information like name, age, income, location, and other demographic information, think about how they can make money off collecting that kind of information.

Most people give out correct information by habit, so websites can easily collect reliable statistics about their audience.

If they ask you to set up an account, read the fine print in these agreements because they may be using your personal information to make money by selling it to advertisers, using it to attract advertisers, or to generate market research reports, which they can then sell.

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