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Web Savvy -- General Guide: Bias

A multi-page tutorial on evaluating web sites, for beginners and those who think they know.

Web Savvy -- Page 9 -- Bias

How can you protect yourself from biased material on the web?

The answer is that you CAN'T. You also don't want to.

Bias occurs when information becomes colored by opinion or is created by those with a stake in an issue. You need to know what those with strong opinions on your topic think, even if you disagree with them. Also those who are key players in your topic, companies that manufacture a product, same sex couples, women who have had an abortion, a parent who has lost a child to texting while driving, think. For a controversial or public policy topic, nearly all primary sources (Sources written by those deeply involved with your topic) are heavily biased.

Please don't confuse biased information with implicit bias, which refers to unconsciously held stereotypes rather than expressed opinion.

Nearly all material contains some bias. Many credible magazines and journals have a noticeable slant. Nearly all reputable news sources painstakingly check their facts and avoiding outright lying, but bias shows up through selective coverage and emotional wording.

Bias becomes a problem, when sources pretend to be completely objective They're not. Bias can also be an issue, when a social media feed or search engine gives you only news stories or links that fit your point of view.

Going out of your way to find primary and news sources on both sides of an issue, even if you are sure the primary source is lying or you think the other side is dead wrong, turns bias to your advantage.

There are many sites that list publications and news sources by political bias:

  • News Sources on the Political Spectrum -- University of Michigan's Research Gide explaining where common, credible, news sources sit on the political bias spectrum. Click Go to Chart for the full experience.

  • Ad Fontes Media Bias Chart. -- An interactive graphic that rates web news sources on their bias and their credibility.

  • All Sides -- This site has information on bias and offers news links from both ends of the political spectrum.

  • Panorama of Views -- A curated collection of news sources available at GSU libraries. These sources feature assorted political and professional biases. There is also a handout to help you use the Pantorama step by step.

Now let's visit some biased web sites.

Center for Food SafetyClick on the image and learn about the Center for Food Safety's view on glycophosphate (Roundup) herbicide.

Monsanto's glycophosphate answer pageClick this image to learn what Monsanto has to say about glycophosphate (Roundup) herbicide.