This is the first in a multi-part series that will look at how Media Bias Fact Check (MBFC) determines if a source is Questionable or not. In this installment I will explain why the About Page is important in determining a media source’s credibility and how much weight it has in determining the overall rating. I think it is important to start with our definition of a Questionable Source:
A questionable source exhibits one or more of the following: extreme bias, overt propaganda, poor or no sourcing to credible information and/or is fake news. Fake News is the deliberate attempt to publish hoaxes and/or disinformation for the purpose of profit or influence (Learn More). Sources listed in the Questionable Category may be very untrustworthy and should be fact checked on a per article basis.
First, lets look at why an About Page is important for a media website. The number one reason for an About Page is to identify who owns/operates the website. This is extremely important because it lets the reader know who the source of information is. Next, the About Page should explain what the website does, what the mission is, and why people should trust that website. If a website is lacking this basic information it has automatically been classified as being poorly sourced by MBFC, even if the content they publish is sourced to credible media. It takes exceptional content to escape the Questionable list without an About Page.
Next, what would be the motive to not have an About Page or description of ownership? I am sure some people want to remain anonymous for good reasons, but if you are publishing content that causes you to hide your name and mission, then one must wonder why? Is the content false? Is it extremely biased? Is it offensive to some people? In my experience through reviewing over 1800 media sources, those without an About Page typically have poor content that is either extremely biased, poorly sourced or flat out fake. I have also seen some excellent websites that were relatively low in bias and highly factual that did not have an About Page. This is very rare, but it does happen. Therefore, the About Page cannot be the only determining factor for Questionable placement. There must be one other factor to classify it as Questionable, such as a failed fact check, poor sourcing of content, extremely biased wording, conspiracies, etc.
In conclusion, the lack of an About Page does not completely discredit a media source, but it certainly should give one pause as to their credibility. When you stumble upon a media source that is publishing information that seems questionable to you, look for the About Page. Not finding one will tell you what you need to know about that source. Lastly, most people never bother to look for the About Page, hopefully this info will make people aware of the importance of this little detail. If you don’t want to hunt for an About Page, visit MBFC and search the source. Chances are we have them in our database.
Another installment (Part 2) will be published soon.
By Dave Van Zandt – Media Bias Fact Check