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OPLIN 4Cast #250: Truth and YouTube

Posted in 4cast

Once again this week, there was big news affecting the ebook business (launch of the Kindle Fire), but since you’ve certainly already been bombarded with that news, we’re going to avoid the ebook subject altogether. Instead, we found some items of interest concerning the accuracy, or assumed accuracy, of information on the Internet. Of course, the Internet is not one homogeneous thing, and the accuracy of information found there depends very heavily on where you are looking. The studies below, for instance, indicate that information from Wikipedia tends to be pretty reliable, while YouTube can be a rich source of misinformation.

  • Cancer information on Wikipedia is accurate, but not very readable (Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson University Hospitals)  “The research revealed that Wikipedia updates faster than PDQ [National Cancer Institute’s Physician Data Query]; however, the hyperlinks embedded within Wikipedia take the user to more dense information. PDQ takes you to more simplified explanations on the content a user clicks on for more information.”
  • Movement disorders on YouTube — caveat spectator (New England Journal of Medicine correspondence)  “For patients with a movement disorder, the information available on YouTube may be misleading and may provide an inaccurate impression of the disorder and its treatment. One video described as showing facial dystonia showed different patterns of facial spasm that appeared to be triggered by an electrical stimulator, and it suggested that dystonia could be alleviated if the patient wore cotton clothes and avoided radiation.”
  • Is the internet rewriting history? (BBC News/Catrin Nye)  “Closest to the heading ‘Trust’ the pupils placed YouTube; somewhere near the heading ‘Distrust’, they placed the government. As part of the exercise, the pupils were asked what kind of videos they had viewed online. A lot of discussion ensued about various conspiracy theories. All the pupils had seen videos about 9/11, but were not sure who had made them. ‘Those ones are true,’ said Aminul Islam, 16.”
  • Conspiracy theories rife in classrooms (Demos press release, 9/30/2011)  “The report argues that the amount of material available at the click of a mouse can be both liberating and asphyxiating. Although there are more e-books, trustworthy journalism, niche expertise and accurate facts at our fingertips than ever before, there is an equal measure of mistakes, half-truths, propaganda, misinformation and general nonsense.”

Digital fluency fact:
The Demos think tank surveyed teachers in England and Wales and found that 75% of them think Internet-based content is important in the formation of their pupils’ beliefs, but 50% rated their pupils’ ability to recognize bias or propaganda in online information as poor (34%) or very poor (16%).