on the Net Invalid?
In his essay, “Picking Nits on the Net,”
John Oughton reminds Internet users that information on the Net does not
have a guarantee of authenticity, so it must be carefully evaluated. Oughton
gives some examples and also provides some useful advice on evaluating
information on the Internet. Oughton’s writing is well supported by reasonable
arguments, informative and very useful, and the examples that he uses are
commonly encountered by most Internet users; however, sometimes he understates
the advantages of valuable information on the Net.
Some examples that Oughton uses to support
his claims are very reasonable. As we can see in his thesis, he states
that in this computerized era, people should be critical in evaluating
any information on the Internet. To support that argument, Oughton gives
some reasons. First, he says that information we get from the Internet
is not reliable, with no assurance of its credibility. It is really true
since people with whatever background of knowledge can write and design
nice looking Web sites and it is easy to disseminate any information by
using the World Wide Web. Second, he also states, “all information on the
Internet looks equal” (463). In particular, when surfing the Net, we might
find that at first sight, some information really looks similar and real,
and usually we do not think about its quality rather than its quantity.
Indeed, misleading information and fake images might trick even skeptical
persons with its good quality. It was not so long ago, when I came across
some sites intended to attack certain people, beliefs, or organizations
that I realized how irresponsible information could really be harmful.
For that reason, I agree with Oughton that ” the unexamined site is not
worth believing” (462).
Moreover, Oughton’s writing is very informative
and useful to Internet users. For example, when he gives some guidelines
for surfers to surf the Net by suggesting to determine the credibility
of sources, to check citations from individuals or institutions before
forwarding them, and to remain skeptical in analyzing information on the
Net. These guidelines, which are leading surfers to be more critical, I
think, are very helpful and important in examining an extremely large collection
of information on the Net. They are the basic things Internet users need
to know before surfing the Net.
In addition, the examples that Oughton
uses in the first paragraph about “forwarded copies of false” virus warnings,
“myths about LSD… in sticks-on tattoos,” and “a mortally ill little boy
who wants the postcards… to get into The Guinness Book of Records” (462)
are also very common for most Internet users. As an Internet user myself,
I can relate to what Oughton says, since I often find pieces of forwarded
junk mail in my mailbox. These pieces of mail are usually about false virus
warnings as mentioned by Oughton. Sometimes, I even receive mail that tells
me I would be lucky if I forward it to a number of people. Unbelievably,
some people actually do that, and I have to waste time deleting that mail.
Apart from the effectiveness of Oughton’s
arguments, some of his arguments understate the advantages of valuable
information on the Internet. For instance, Oughton is overdramatic when
he states, ” with its huge range of news, information, opinion, promotion,
and entertainment, the Internet… is no more reliable a source of fact than
is your neighbor at the water cooler and backyard fence” (462). According
to his statement, it appears that most of information we get from the Net
is unreliable, like gossip with no validity. As a consequence, people who
read his article might think the quality of information is worse than the
reality that appears on the Net. Nevertheless, there are times when I have
had problems with viruses; however, I received an e-mail that informed
me how to deal with it, and it really worked.
Evaluating the reliability and quality
of information found on the Internet is one of the biggest problems facing
Internet users. I find Oughton’s essay edifying and useful for surfers.
It makes us even more aware of the problems of unreliable information on
the Net and how to critically assess it. Although people’s reactions may
vary from easy acceptance to skeptical dismissal, the truth is that the
Internet provides extraordinary information sharing with a lot of great
resources. Still, it would be wise to examine and screen information on
the Net with caution and discernment.