Web Surfers Increasingly Skeptical Of Information On Internet
Only 50.1 percent of Internet users surveyed in 2003 said they believed that most or all online information was reliable and accurate--down from a high of 58 percent in 2001, according to the Digital Future Report, now in its fourth year.
Why the growing skepticism? Jeffrey Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future, said people have learned through experience that they can't believe everything they read on the Web. "Four years ago, we went online and we trusted everything," he said. "People got burned," he said. While users still rely on the Web, said Cole, "people have figured out there's a lot of useless information on the Internet."
Despite users' increasing skepticism, people tended to trust certain sites. Web sites of traditional media and the government ranked highest in perceived trustworthiness, with 74.4 percent of users saying that information on the sites of established media is reliable and accurate and 73.5 percent of users saying the same about information on government sites. In contrast, information posted by individuals was only considered to be reliable and accurate by 9.5 percent of users.
The report, based on a survey of 2009 households by the USC Annenberg Center for the Digital Future, also found that Americans in 2003 spent an increasing amount of time online. In 2003, respondents spent an average of 12.5 hours a week online--up from 9.4 hours in 2000, the first year the survey was conducted.
What did they do in that time? More than nine out of 10--90.2 percent--checked e-mail. Other activities included surfing the Web (77.2 percent), reading news (52 percent), spending time on hobbies (46.7 percent), looking for entertainment information (45.6 percent), shopping (44.2 percent), seeking medical information (36.1 percent), looking for travel information (34.6 percent), tracking credit cards (32.5 percent), and playing games (28.5 percent).
The study also found that Internet users watched 4.6 fewer hours of television a week than non-users. About four out of 10, or 42.9 percent, of the most experienced users surveyed--those online for at least seven years--reported watching less television since using the Internet. For users who were online less than one year, only 20.5 percent said the same.