Today is Martin Luther King Day, a day when many people are looking up information on the Civil Rights leader. Unfortunately, relying on Google or other popular search engines can lead unsuspecting researchers astray.
A Google search for “Martin Luther King” brings up martinlutherking.org as its third result. The site, which claims to give a “True Historical Examination” of King’s life, makes many false or misleading accusations intended to discredit King. It encourages students to print flyers and post them in their schools.
The site is designed to resemble a trustworthy educational site. Only a link at the bottom of the front page reveals the source of the site: Stormfront.org, one of the longest-running and most popular white supremacist sites on the Web.
“Because many people use simple Internet keyword searches for instant results, it's easy to see how MartinLutherKing.org, could mislead a user about the nature of its content,” writes Imaeyen Ibanga for ABC News.
Martinlutherking.org is an extreme example of the importance of evaluating a Web site’s credibility. One cannot assume that the first few results of a Google search are credible Web sites. A site’s Google ranking is due more to its traffic and keyword optimization than the quality of its content.
When evaluating a Web site you are not familiar with, it is necessary to look at the “About Us” section or similar section. For help in evaluating credibility, see our Guide to Web Search.
Google’s results also demonstrate the advantages of Sweet Search, which includes only Web sites that have been evaluated as reliable and appropriate for educational purposes.
Read the findingDulcinea profile of Martin Luther King Jr. to find the best Web sites for studying his life and work.