On the Dangers of Unskeptical Googling

Fifteen years into this whole internet fad, I had gotten so accustomed to looking for (and readily believing) information I found on the internet that it unfortunately took a rather extreme example to reawaken a healthy skepticism and my perception of facts. 

I was curious about the ratings of the C-SPAN channels and how they compare to other cable channels so I Googled: “C-SPAN nielsen ratings”

The C-SPAN Dancers

And innocently clicked on the first promising result of “C-SPAN Ratings Up …”  I was halfway through an article on how C-SPAN’s addition of the “The House Of Representatives Dancers” had markedly increased their ratings before I eventually realized that I was on the parody site “The Onion (full article here).”

I then began to wonder how many other times I had read complete nonsense on the internet and just didn’t realize it because it wasn’t on an obvious comedy website.

Oh well, just a well-needed reminder to be incredulous of anything found on the internet.  Also a reminder that as information becomes more centralized, it becomes easier to distort – and not always to comedic effect as in the case of The Onion.   

Incidentally the ratings services do not rate C-SPAN (mentioned by Brian Lamb here in an interview in 1996).  Which is good, because what show would want to be beaten in the ratings by BookTV?


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