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Leslie Gilmour

How Safe & Reliable is the Internet?

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A few years ago a story about an elderly lady who allegedly trained her 65 cats to steal from her neighbours spread throughout social media.

And this is just one among many examples that baffle the internet users, some of whom don’t immediately realise that they’re dealing with fake news, invented with the purpose of entertainment (although sometimes there are other motives such as financial, political, or social).

And a little fun never hurt anybody, right?

As a matter of fact, this is a debatable question.

Similarly, a commercial stat saying that “80% of dentists recommend Colgate” and which the company was subsequently banned from using, was a manipulation – dentists recommended other brands as much as Colgate. According to surveys, Americans believe that two-thirds of news on social media is misinformation.

No wonder this is so when the phenomenon of creating and circulating fake news and doctored stats has brought about much confusion among the internet users as it’s sometimes really hard to figure out how reliable a source is and whether stats and research results are legit. This can be particularly complicated when you have a research paper to write.

Here’s how to make sure that your data is accurate and verified.

Run a Background Check on the Website

Before you decide to use a certain website for study materials and quote it as a source in your paper, you need to establish its credibility and trustworthiness. 

There are a couple of easy tricks that will help you make a conclusion:

  • Is it ridden with spelling and grammar mistakes? If the answer is yes, then it’s a red flag that the source in question is of dubious credibility.
  • Who’s the author of the publication? If you can’t find a name or contact details, you can as well ask yourself why the person has chosen to be so vague about that, and that’s not a good sign. By providing their credentials, authors show that they’re transparent, as well as that they stand behind their words.
  • Are there any references to the author elsewhere? If the person has authored other publications and if they’re cited on different relevant and trustworthy websites, then it’s likely that you can safely use their work for your research purposes. People who are experts in their field are usually cited and mentioned frequently in papers and texts of other scholars, meaning that they in a way vouch for them.
  • Is the author affiliated with a reputable organisation or academic institution? This is a good sign, because, MIT, for example, wouldn’t allow being affiliated with a charlatan or a questionable source.
  • Are the sources the author cited reliable and trustworthy? If the author corroborates his ideas by providing links to shady websites, skip that publication.

These are some of the first steps that you have to take if you’d like to use a certain website as a source.

What About Wikipedia?

Although you’ll hear that many people don’t exactly prefer Wikipedia as a source, the fact is that it’s one of the most comprehensive sources on the internet – the digital encyclopedia has more than 5.7 million articles in English.

While it’s true that registered members can provide and edit articles, which sometimes leads to incorrect and invalid information, the community very quickly reacts and such, usually intentional, misinformation is quickly corrected. However, certain articles, especially those concerning historical and political facts, tend to be biased.

But this source can be the first step in your research and provide you with a general overview of the

topic you’re dealing with as it can direct you towards different perspectives and useful sources which are listed below every article. A good rule of thumb is to check out Wikipedia articles but take certain things with a pinch of salt and explore them in more detail on other websites.

So, the main takeaway point would be to always double-check every source.

Trace Back the Information to the Primary Sources

You should always try to follow the trail of citations and identify the primary sources of the information you use.

As different pieces of information are being passed on, they are altered, corrupted, and misinterpreted, which leads to a certain kind of academic Rashomon effect. 

This means that the version of the information you find might differ significantly from the original, which is why you need to set the record straight.

We tend to rely on curated content and other people’s overviews and accounts of a particular research study or situation, but it’s best to look for the original and take the whole context into consideration, especially when we’re dealing with sensitive or frequently disputed matters.

Use Different Source Types

In an attempt to ensure that your paper is accurate and well-researched, you can easily make it dry and uninteresting.

That’s why it’s a good idea to go beyond these traditional sources and pep things up with newspaper articles, magazines, interviews, private archives, scholarly journals, as well as different audio and video recordings.

The only problem might be the fact that certain journals and scientific magazines are accessible only to U.S. audiences. This obstacle can be easily overcome by using a reliable VPN service which can override such location-based limitations and allow you to dive into a wealth of interesting information.

Tap into Google Scholar

If you want to browse scholarly literature, then Google’s freely accessible academic search engine can help you with that.

Google Scholar’s database boasts around 389 million records, including research studies, papers, abstracts, technical reports and countless other types of documents available in digital and physical formats.

Certain articles and publications are free while others have to be paid for in order to be accessed in full. This service uses Google’s algorithm to rank search results, meaning that it lists the most relevant results based on the author’s ranking, the number of citations, as well as the ranking of the publication that the article appears in.

So, if you want to play it safe, then Google Scholar is a must.

One would think that living in a global and highly digital village means that every information is easily accessible and verifiable, but it turns out that the Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds hoax is still a very likely scenario in this day and age. That’s why it’s important to know your sources well and use these tips to find reliable and legitimate information for academic purposes.

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Leslie Gilmour

Are CCTV Cameras Making Us Feel Any Safer?

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In this day and age it seems like you can’t go anywhere without being watched.  Whether it is through private video surveillance or government run CCTV cameras; someone is always seemingly watching your ever move.  While many of these security devices are meant to help keep you safe, it does raise a great deal of new questions.  One of the biggest things people are wondering is whether or not the extra added security actually makes them feel any safer.  On top of that, it is a concern that this unknown safety is not worth the violation of personal privacy. 

Why Do We Have CCTV Cameras?

Government surveillance in the UK has been around for decades.  It first dates back to the after WWII when tensions were high and so was the need for added security.  Ever since the birth of the digital age, these surveillance techniques only grew and became more invasive.  These days you can’t turn a corner without seeing a CCTV camera high above your head watching your ever step.  By 2011 there was an estimation that there were over 1.8 million forms of public surveillance which includes CCTV cameras located throughout the UK alone.  Since then, that number has only grown which raises the question; why the need?

CCTV cameras are meant to record all activities while also are meant to be used a police and government tool to screen for suspicious behavior.  Along with the screening process, police teams also use the CCTV feed to identify crime and criminals and often times will release that information to public in order to get a positive identification or more information on a crime.  While helping to prevent crime and bigger national problems is a big deal, it doesn’t always help to bring any relief to the citizens.

Public View on CCTV Cameras

When it comes to CCTV cameras and public opinion, the feelings are mixed.  Some people appreciate that this type of video surveillance will help to solves crime and that gives them a certain sense of security when it comes to their safety.  Other people feel that this is just another excuse for government to get involved in their personal day to day lives.  The one thing that most people can agree on is that whichever sides people stand on, they feel extremely strong about their personal views.

The citizens who tend to stand against public surveillance are valid in these feelings.  How far is too far?  It isn’t only CCTV cameras that are used these days which gives weight to the fears of the public.  Many CCTV cameras have been fitted with microphone devices now which mean that not only are people monitoring your movements, but your conversations as well.  It is also known that government can now also use other means of monitoring such as recording cell phone conversations and emails, so there really seems like there is no fine line left when it comes to safety and privacy.

Do CCTV Cameras Prevent Crime?

When it comes to crime prevention, it is unclear about whether or not CCTV cameras do the job correctly.  It seems that they work well in the aftermath of a crime when they need to make an ID or gather information, but actual crime prevention is a whole different study itself.  This is because not all CCTV cameras are live feeds meaning that in order to do surveillance, the person monitoring would have to know a specific date and time stamp in order to find the incident, but what about the live feed?  The live feed cameras can work to spot suspicious behavior which can help to prevent a crime from taking place but it takes a trained eye to do so. 

It also should be said that the appearance of CCTV cameras has not worked to deter criminals the way police would have hoped.   If anything, CCTV cameras have made criminals smarter and help them learn how to be cleverer in order to evade surveillance.  This is one of the reasons why many people don’t actually feel like CCTV cameras make them feel any safer.  There is still plenty of speculation and debate on this matter even though police and government claim that CCTV cameras have led to more than 4000 arrests in four years alone, yet is unclear about how many of those arrests led to convictions and how many were a direct result of public surveillance.

One of the biggest concerns that private citizens have when it comes to CCTV monitoring is when does it stop being about crime and become about control?  There have been reports of CCTV cameras now being able to cite you for smaller crimes like jay walking and littering.  While you should try to never break the law, is it an abuse of power for the government to use monitoring for seemingly trivial acts?  That is a question that one must ask them before deciding if CCTV cameras are put in place for the best interest of the community.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately we have come to terms with whether or not we feel comfortable being monitored continuously.  Do we feel safer or do we want to grasp tightly to whatever privacy we may have left.  We also need to wonder what direction all of this monitoring is taking us in.  Will we ever be able to live as private citizens and have our business be just ours?  More importantly, is the government feeding off of public fear as an excuse to keep tabs on our every move?  One thing is for sure, the conversation of whether or not CCTV cameras make us feel any safer is a conversation that doesn’t seem to be ending soon.  With so many questions left unanswered there is so much uncertainty about the future of public surveillance. 

At the end of the day is comes to public and personal opinion.  If CCTV cameras make you feel safer knowing that there is always a watchful eye in the sky, then keep on living your life.  If you worry that government involvement is becoming too overwhelming, keep asking the tough questions while continuing to exercise reasonable caution.  You never know who is watching.  Take care.

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