Can I Trust What's on the Internet?

The Internet puts vast amounts of knowledge at our fingertips. But you’ve probably heard people say, “It must be true—I read it on the Internet.” That sarcastic remark has become our shorthand for admitting what everyone knows: lots of information we find on the Internet is, well, worthless junk.

You’ve got to look at the information you find with a critical eye to know what is reliable and useful and what is not. Here are some general tips that can help:

  • Understand sponsored search results—Typically the first few links on a Google search will have a small yellow box beside them that says, “Ad.” These sites have paid Google to be among the first results returned for a keyword search. Unlike the “organic” or unsponsored search results beneath them, which are ranked by how useful people find them, their high ranking was bought.
  • Learn the difference between a bona fide news source, a blog article, and a Facebook post—What you read on blogs and Facebook is not necessarily bad information, but it’s not necessarily good information either. What you read there may just be someone’s opinion, or what someone heard someone else say. An article by a bona fide news organization will always mention where the information it is reporting came from. When you read something that sounds like advice, treatment, or an intervention, be sure to look into the qualifications of the person or group recommending it.

Saving or storing the information

Once you’ve found an article or website you find valuable and helpful, there are several ways you can organize and save it:

  • Bookmarking a webpage is useful for when you want to find it without having to search for it again. How you bookmark a page depends on which web browser you use. Check under the “Bookmarks” menu in your browser.
  • PDFs are an easy way to store documents on your computer so you don’t need Internet access later to view them. There are a variety of ways to save webpages as PDFs. Search the Help menu in your web browser to learn more.
  • If you prefer a hardcopy, you can always print a webpage to keep in a file or binder. 

Internet sharing and file services

There are a variety of boards and online databases that let you save and access your online information from anywhere. All of the services mentioned here let you create an account for free.

Pinterest has become incredibly popular over the last few years as a way for people to share interests and resources within their social networks. Sign up is free. It is primarily for storing and sharing pictures and videos. Keep in mind that nothing you post is private—everyone can see what you pin to your board. Also see Find Information on Pinterest on this site.

LiveBinders is another web-based tool where you can store information. Unlike Pinterest, which needs a picture or video to capture a webpage article, you can store any web address to LiveBinders. You can also upload PDF documents or Microsoft Word documents you have created and store them there. You can store information in virtual three-ring binders organized with tabs you create. You have the option of making your binders public or private.

Symbaloo is another way to store bookmarks and favorites on the web so you can access them from any computer. It allows you to save webpages and articles to tiles, which you can then color code to organize your information. You can upload your own PDFs or documents. You can share your information or keep it private.

Finally, there is Google Drive. If you have a Gmail account then you already have access to Google Drive. You just need to log in to your account to access it. If you don’t already have an account, simply go to the Google website and you can sign up for free. Google Drive lets you create different kinds of documents, as well as upload documents from your computer. You can share these documents with individuals and groups.