Credibility on the Internet

December 7, 1998
Communications 1307
Final Essay:

The Internet in a vast computer-based medium for communication and information,
transmitted through a modular phone line, that is available to everyone. The Internet allows access
to millions of pages of information. This “world of information” is also referred to as the World
Wide Web (WWW).It was developed in 1989 by English computer scientist Timothy Berners-Lee
to enable information to be shared among internationally dispersed teams of researchers at the
European Laboratory for Particle Physics near Geneva. I doubt he had any idea of the magnitude
of his invention or the impact it would make on daily living. Now the Web is involved through
hundreds of systems. These systems enable computer users to view and interact with a variety of
information, including articles, library access, world news, business, and downloadable software.
It has become a valid tool in technology advancement, and will continue to enhance living forever.
The WWW is accessible to anyone with a computer and a modem. For as little as $14.95, you can
be surfing the information superhighway. With all the valuable information available, there is also
false and misleading information on the net. There is no pre-requisite for transmitting information
via the WWW. Anyone with an idea can present it. This is one of the reasons the net is so
wonderful. But, with that, comes those who feel the Internet is a suitable medium to vent false
information. There are thousands of sites on the WWW that, purposefully or not, transmit false
and misleading information for the world to see. It has been estimated that, for every four factual
web sites, one misleading site exists. This has potential to spread false information at an
alarmingly rapid pace. Some web users find it rewarding and exciting to know they have misled
gullible WWW surfers. Not all false information on the web is necessarily direct lies. I will provide
examples of false information, bias judgment and interpretation of facts, and fraud.
The National Rifle Association estimates that one of every five middle income households
possess a gun of .30/06 caliber (average hunting rifle) or more. On the other hand, CEASE
(Citizens Encouraging A Safer Environment) claims that figure is one half of all American
households. This is a sizable discrepancy. It is difficult to decipher the truthful figure. Each of the
organizations have a vested interest in the subject. The NRA stands more credible, they provide a
detailed cited resource caption that explains where the figure was generated. The facts were
obtained from a survey in Washington state. The figures may, however, be higher in a state that
has an active hunting environment. These are facts, though. The NRA could have obtained survey
results from a more hunted part of the country. Those potential results, assumable, would not
back up their argument. These are examples of crafting statistics to say what is in your best
interest. This is a problem on the WWW. Dr. James Wade of the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology agrees that this is a growing delimma for WWW users. He claims that, if new
regulations for the Internet aren’t established, the WWW will become a “haven for misleading
information.” Until a regulatory list of credibility guidelines is established, a problem of truthful
WWW-displayed facts is inevitable.
A number of the population believes that, if it’s on the Internet, it’s got to be legitimate.
These people are the ones getting scammed out of hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
Intelligent, well planned fraud schemed plague the WWW. They lure unsuspecting, trusting
people into intricate schemes to take their money. Most of this is done with credit card handling.
However, some of it is due to false donations by check or cash. This is a big business. The
so-called companies that run these scams aren’t the only ones at fault. Legitimate businesses can
have their interaction with customers intercepted. In a landmark case of Internet fraud, Michael
Lesser was found guilty of five counts of felony credit card fraud. He would use de-scrambling
software to intercept credit card purchases made on-line to L.L.Bean. He would then take those
numbers and purchase goods for himself. He was apprehended when a friend turned him in to
authorities. This happens everyday to unsuspecting shoppers. Though it still exists, credit card
verification services and more powerful scrambling software has aided in curtailing the problem.
Another example of misleading Internet practices occurred in Lincoln, Nebraska. A ring of
University of Nebraska students placed false “facts” on the University website. The