As we all know, the internet is a tremendous research tool and education resource. If, and only if, we are careful with our site selection. All too often, seemingly “official” websites turn out to be hoax site, fake “mirror” image sites, or just plain amateur replica sites, or filled with inaccurate or untrue information.
For scholarly research, the user has to be sure to seek credible resources. Most teaching institutions will not count Wikipedia and other user contributed databases as scholarly or credible resources. After all, any of us could go online right now and add information to most any Wikipedia entry. Granted there is a vetting process, especially with public figures, but false or at least inaccurate information has been known to be included at times.
For a side by side comparison, we can do a simple search for the White House. The official site will appear, www.whitehouse.gov, and features links to all you might want to know about what President Obama is up to, including his schedule, recent photos and other news. One could just as easily land at www.whitehouse.com, and be inundated with questionable online dating site information, likewise at www.whitehouse.net, which turns out to be a site parody of the 43rd President George Bush. Lastly, there is a very, very similar address to the official White House website, www.whitehouse.gov1.info, that looks extremely official, right down to the font and the photos. It is not until you read the very fine print in the corner, does one even note that it says “Not the” White House. When accessing the articles and links with highly realistic titles, one is quickly drawn into another false and satirical website posing as the real thing. This particular site is interesting however, as it would likely take most users at least a few minutes to even discover that they were not where they originally intended. Clearly this is yet another sign for the internet user to double check site credible before proceeding.