Examples of Google Gone Wrong

Generally in a 50-minute information literacy session for undergraduates, you’re going to remind them that they can’t trust everything on the internet.  That Google can be great for some things, but you should always be cautious of what you find.  Then the students will nod their heads because this is something they’ve heard many times before and understand.  Most of these students are smart & many really do understand this concept; and they think they have good judgment about these things (i.e. what to trust and what not to trust).  And perhaps for the most part they do.  But do they really?

I think showing the students real examples of this concept in action can be an effective way to reach them so they actually “get it.”  Showing them search results that you wouldn’t trust.  Websites that look alright at first but when you dig a little deeper you see they are completely unreliable.  Below are some examples I’ve found – all they require is searching Google:

  • Search “martin luther king” in Google.  The fifth result down is called “Martin Luther King Jr. – A True Historical Examination.”  It’s a website hosted by Stormfront, a white nationalist organization.
  • Search “gatt” (short for “general agreement on tarrifs & trade”).  The first result is www.gatt.org, which at first appears to be the World Trade Organization website; clearly it’s not.
  • Search “facts about women and aids,” and click the first result (if the students pay attention they’ll see “contains fictitious information” in the site description).
  • Search “solar system Mars facts;” about the fifth one down is called Solar System Information: MARS.  The URL might be enough to tip people off, but if they don’t notice they might be halfway through the article before realizing this is a hoax.  Or they might not realize at all.
  • Search “find chuck norris,” selecting “I’m feeling lucky.” (OK, this is more just for fun).
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