Should websites be given trustworthiness ratings?

Sir Tim Berners-Lee is worried that there's too much disinformation floating around the web. He feels that there needs to be a way to rate sites according to how trustworthy they are. From the BBC:

"On the web the thinking of cults can spread very rapidly and suddenly a cult which was 12 people who had some deep personal issues suddenly find a formula which is very believable," he said. "A sort of conspiracy theory of sorts and which you can imagine spreading to thousands of people and being deeply damaging."

Sir Tim and colleagues at the World Wide Web consortium had looked at simple ways of branding websites - but concluded that a whole variety of different mechanisms was needed.

"I'm not a fan of giving a website a simple number like an IQ rating because like people they can vary in all kinds of different ways," he said. "So I'd be interested in different organisations labelling websites in different ways".

I don't think this proposal would improve the situation in any way. There already are trustworthy sites on the internet, and the web is actually pretty good at debunking rumors and misinformation. The problem is, the people who believe the misinformation are the same people who don't bother to check the trustworthy sites. (Thanks, Joe!)


Posted on Mon Sep 15, 2008


To give web site trusthworthiness ratings, they have to be given by someone. That someone has somewhere between 100% and 110% chance of letting their own personal or political bias affect their ratings, so we'd need a system of assigning truthworthiness ratings to our trustworthiness czars.

This is no different from certificate authorities on SSL encryption. The only thing they are authorities on is processing your credit card, and they only they they certify is that it your credit card didn't bounce.

I find that the desire to create a truthworthiness rating system is reason enough for me to not trust someone.
Posted by Terry Austin  on  Mon Sep 15, 2008  at  10:23 AM
Any such system, even if it were completely trustworthy and fair, would create two types of web content - content that was part of the system and was therefore deemed 'safe', and content that was excluded from the system as part of a vast conspiracy of silence.

An 'official' system would lend an air of legitimacy to anyone who was outside the system because there wouldn't be a need to marginalize them if those in authority weren't afraid of what the marginalized had to say.
Posted by Charybdis  on  Mon Sep 15, 2008  at  10:48 AM
The problem isn't websites persay but rather lack of critical thinking skills. If someone wants to supress cults and the like they should simply work on teachin logic in elementary school.

A good way to figure out if someone is trustworthy is to ask them if they would bet a dollar on it. If they won't bet, it's means they're unsure and that you should take what they say with a grain of salt. If it's it a computer or a website then it's my personal philosophy that you should take it with a grain salt and understand that no matter how real it feels, it's mostly entertainment and it doesn't effect you in real life.
Posted by Logic  on  Mon Sep 15, 2008  at  09:11 PM
An impossible task given the sheer number of websites on the internet.

What does trustworthiness imply? Truthfulness of content? That it's not a scam? What about a website that contains IP loggers? Is that trustworthy?

Who will make these decisions? Who will be responsible for rating the sites? How will new websites be given a rating? Will you have to get your website listed on a list of trusted sites?

Too many questions, not enough answers.
Posted by JDK  on  Mon Sep 15, 2008  at  10:12 PM
"If someone wants to supress cults and the like they should simply work on teachin logic in elementary school."

The problem with that, however, is that you can be perfectly logical and still come up with a completely false conclusion.
Posted by Accipiter  on  Tue Sep 16, 2008  at  05:22 PM
"The problem with that, however, is that you can be perfectly logical and still come up with a completely false conclusion."

So how did you reach that conclusion? Hmm?
Posted by Dumbfounded  on  Wed Sep 17, 2008  at  06:06 AM
A magical pixie told me.
Posted by Accipiter  on  Wed Sep 17, 2008  at  01:25 PM
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