bbbannerThere’s way too much faulty information floating around on the Internet, some of it in the guise of ostensibly “credible” reports. Every so often, some story that many media sources pick up and run with turns out to be false—the latest example is the story a few days back of Keanu Reeves claiming he was going to star in The Matrix 4 and 5…in a speech at a school that turned out not actually to exist! If even the major news sources have credulity problems, how can the average news reader hope to cope?

The Nieman Journalism Lab has an interesting story about an academic research game that a professor put together that might hold the answer. This game, BiblioBouts, was intended to teach students to distinguish between reliable and unreliable academic citations, but it might just as easily be adapted to help people distinguish between reliable and unreliable news sources as well.

Through rating and tagging each other’s citations, students evaluate what makes a good source, with (hopefully) the more thorough and useful sources rising to the top. If competitiveness is any kind of factor students will look at the winning sources and want to emulate that process, [BiblioBouts creator Professor Karen] Markey said. “It puts people in situations where the game-like features encourage them to continue playing,” she said. “And if they continue playing, hopefully they’ll learn more.”

The game is about teaching new methodologies for evaluating information, Markey says. It helps people develop the tools to make sense of the mountains of information that the Internet can bring our way. As more and more new forms of media and news sources come online, this kind of skill starts looking more important than ever.

The one flaw I see with this kind of game is that it tends to rely on at least some people being able to tell what makes a credible source—if no one has any idea what makes a credible source, then the results might not have any meaning. Still, it gets people thinking critically about reliability, and at least that’s something.


  1. Depending on kids to take it seriously… because it’s set up like a game? Doesn’t sound too reliable to me; seems as easy to game this proposed system as it is the present one.

    Too many digital and web-based systems, it seems, are relying on things like fair play and honesty, and not on actual ways to verify content and apply security. This isn’t the Age of Aquarius; we need to get real about these problems, and stop throwing faeries and unicorns at them.

  2. “There’s way too much faulty information floating around on the Internet”

    I suggest that the word Internet should be replaced by the word Media. The wider Media is no more reliable than the content of the Internet, except for the fact that the Internet enables the user to immediately explore the references and any contradicting information in minutes.

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