The Web Of Distrust

A couple of things have gone into the inspiration behind this post: Dave Gorman's recent post on fake Children In Need Twitter accounts, and attitudes around Wikipedia that I've heard from academics.

Trust is a funny thing - it can be easily influenced and manipulated. I've found that people are oddly trusting of certain things, and equally strangely distrusting of others. In particular people's trust of Wikipedia is something that seems to be backwards.

The number of time's I've heard from my lecturers that Wikipedia can't be trusted (I'm sure I'd lose a hell of a lot of marks if it cited it), because of it's openness - anyone can edit it and so therefore the information on it can't be verified. Despite that fact that I've found many Wikipedia articles to be better sourced (and have actual links to peer-reviewed articles) than some of the learning resources and links we've been sent by lecturers. But my real issue is the expectation that we can really trust any article at all - the scientific method is based around the idea that no fact can be 100% provable. We're told that we should be critically analysing Wikipedia to think about how much we trust it. I see this as stunning arrogance - we should be critically analysing every article, paper and book that we come across, especially stuff that's held up to be absolute truth.

And this is where my real point comes in - I think that somehow some forms of media have managed to get a false levels of trust. I've found that just because something's on the internet people trust it less and look for more sources, which is great but I just wish they'd apply this to newspaper, TV, books etc.

This was brought home to me, to some effect, by the Children In Need fake accounts that @DaveGorman tweeted about, and subsequently blogged about (see the link above) - it seems that again trust is the issue. People assuming that a Twitter account offering to donate 50p to CiN was legit, when in fact there's no link to information about the cause. It only takes one person who needs to dig a little to expose information that's plain wrong.

So I guess what I'm saying that we should treat all information with just a bit more scepticism, and think about the biases of the authors.

PS. You can donate to Children In Need here