Bias and reliability

The internet contains a wealth of information. This information can be used to learn about new things or to verify facts.

However, much of the information on the internet is either biased in some way or incorrect.

Information that is biased or incorrect loses its value. When information has no value, it is of no use to us. We need to be able to distinguish between information that is valuable (of use to us) and that which is not.

What is bias?

Biased information is information that is written from a particular perspective or point of view.

When we write, we often – either purposefully or accidentally – introduce bias. Information that contains bias may be:

  • personal opinion
  • a statement that has no factual basis
  • prejudiced in favour of or against a person, product, situation or idea

Examples

Look at the following examples of information about a film:

  • “I think this film is the best animated film of all time.” This statement is clearly personal opinion, and as such should be treated with caution. Someone else might say the film is poor.
  • “In twenty years’ time, people will say this film is the best animated film ever.” There is no factual basis to this statement. How can the person who wrote it know what people will think in the future?
  • “Like all animated films, this one is great!” This information contains prejudice – the writer clearly has a passion for animation. Someone who does not like animation may say all animated films are poor.

In each case, bias has distorted the information about the film.

Information on the internet can be positively or negatively biased and its important to check the reliability of the source.

What is reliability?

Incorrect information is information that is wrong, out of date or inaccurate.

Websites may contain information that is incorrect for any of these reasons:

  • wrong – the facts stated are incorrect
  • out of date – the facts may have been correct when the website was produced, but are no longer correct
  • inaccurate – the facts may be largely correct, but may contain some errors

When information is correct, it is ‘reliable’. Reliable information has value. The less reliable the information, the less valuable it is.