Is .Gov Reputable?

During information-literacy instruction, librarians generally count on the .gov domain suffix to lead to reputable information. 

For example, this site on evaluating internet information plainly states:
Government. If you come across a site with this domain, then you're viewing a federal government site. All branches of the United States federal government use this domain. Information such as Census statistics, Congressional hearings, and Supreme Court rulings would be included in sites with this domain. The information is considered to be from a credible source.

And another site also states: 
You can trust sites with “.gov” addresses. You can also trust sites with “.edu” addresses if they’re produced by the educational institution. Personal pages of individuals at an educational institution may not be trustworthy, even though they have “.edu” addresses. The presence of “.org” in an address doesn’t guarantee that a site is reputable; there have been instances where phony “.org” sites were set up to mislead consumers. Also, some legitimate “.org” sites belong to organizations that promote a specific agenda; their content may be biased.

I'd wager that nearly any source on evaluating internet information has a similar statement. 

During the last few weeks, however, I've started to ask myself if this is still true. Do we find ourselves in a time when even .gov information should be evaluated for bias or in furtherance of a particular agenda? 

Or maybe this was always the case.

Either way, the popular rhetoric points to being hyper-vigilant about the information that we rely on and share with the world. No longer should we rely on certain domains to provide reputable information. We should all use our evaluation skills to vet any and all information.

Challenge accepted. 


  1. The law librarian's role is to make sure that the information has a pedigree, i.e., that is it what it purports to be. That is similar to the authentication rules in the evidence rules.

    That is not the same thing as deciding whether the information is itself accurate. Indeed, even a subject specialist would be hard pressed to do that in most instances. The evidence rule analog would be excluding an expert's evidence because it is not reliable.

    All you can do as a librarian is make sure that the user knows that the pedigree extends to the thing itself and not to its contents.

  2. Very good point. I was at a bit of a loss trying to consider ways to validate the information itself. But at least mentioning that even the prized .gov can be biased may be the solution.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

For The Love Of Archives

Law Library Lessons in Vendor Relations from the UC/Elsevier Split

Library Catalogs & Discovery Layers