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Identifying Bias

What are domain names?

A domain name is the base of a website address, like uwgb.edu or google.com. A top-level domain is the part after the period, like .com and .org. Top-level domains are not a reliable way to determine bias or agenda. Consider who can use the following:

Top-level domain Availability
.com Can be used by anyone for any purpose
.org
.net
.gov Restricted to U.S.-based government and public sector organizations
.edu Restricted to accredited U.S.-based postsecondary institutions (colleges and universities)

Even restricted top-level domains should be evaluated for bias and credibility. Sites using .edu, for example, can include persuasive blog posts or essays, student pages, and other information. Content on .gov sites can sometimes be influenced by politics.

Compare & Contrast

Look at the following sets of webpages and consider how their top-level domain may or may not indicate their credibility or bias. Because websites can change over time, links go to archived versions of the pages on Archive.org.

If you were writing a paper about gun laws, which do you think would be more useful to start your research?

The Wikipedia page would be the better place to start your research. The first page is from a .edu website. However, it’s a reproduction of a brochure distributed by the National Rifle Association, a gun rights organization. As an advocacy group, the NRA likely presents one-sided information.

Although students are sometimes told to avoid Wikipedia, it can be useful when starting research for getting an overview of a topic. Looking at the citations can also guide researchers to other sources of information.

Which of these is a more reliable source of information about transgender youth?

The HealthyChildren.org page is a more reliable source. It’s managed by the American Academy of Pediatricians, a widely respected professional association for pediatricians. ACPeds.org is owned by the American College of Pediatricians. Despite its formal-sounding name, ACPeds is an advocacy group with anti-LGBTQ+ positions.

Search specific domains with Google

You can search a particular domain or top-level domain on Google by using the site: prefix. For example, Green Bay population site:census.gov will only show results that appear on the Census.gov website.

Search for Green Bay population site:census.gov

This technique also works on other search engines, including DuckDuckGo, Bing, and Yahoo.

Sources

Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency. (n.d.). Domain requirements. https://home.dotgov.gov/registration/requirements

Educause. (n.d.). Eligibility. https://net.educause.edu/eligibility.htm

Stanford History Education Group. (n.d.). Domain names. Civic Online Reasoning. https://cor.stanford.edu/curriculum/lessons/domain-names