- What authority is responsible for this site? Who developed the site, and is there a clear link to contact information? What are the author’s credentials, and is the site supported by an organization or commercial body?
- What is the purpose of the site? Is the purpose to inform, persuade, convey an opinion, entertain, or parody something/someone? Is the site geared to a specific audience (students, scholars, public at large), and does the content support the site’s purpose?
- What is the extent of this site’s coverage? Does the site claim to be selective or comprehensive? Are the topics explored in depth? Compare the value of the site’s information compared to other similar sites. Does the site provide information with no relevant external links?
- Is the information posted on the site current? Does the site list the date the information was first written, published online, and last revised? Are there any dead links or references to sites that have moved? Is the information provided so time-specific that its usefulness is limited to a certain time period?
- Is the site clearly objective, or is it trying to sway its audience? Is the information presented with a particular bias? Is site advertising at odds with the content? Is the site trying to explain, inform, or persuade, or is it selling something?
- Is the information accurate? Does the site provide references, and does it use correct spelling and grammar?
There are also specific criteria in evaluating government websites, which are especially important when trying to access vital services:
- Does the website address end in ".gov."?
- Does the site charge a fee for blank government enrollment/application forms? Government forms and instructions are free.
Contact Consumer Action’s hotline at 415.777.9635 or online if you have a question about a suspicious site that claims to be government related.
Finally, here are some more ways to protect yourself online.
6 Criteria for Websites (Dalhousie University)
Be aware of government imposters (Consumer Action)