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Evaluating Websites

Take a few minutes to go over the example shown below. Using the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, and WHY method, we have reviewed the Generation Rescue website. Pay attention to moments when evaluation required outside searches or comparison to other resources.

Generation Rescue

WHO is the author / publisher/ source? What are their credentials? Is there any contact information provided, such as a publisher or an email address?

  • Generation Rescue: organization for autism recovery; founded by parents JB and Lisa Handley (credentials = personal story of child with autism) “Community of parents & families who have vaccinated their children and now believe in informed consent”
  • Promote link between autism and vaccines and “treating” autism w/ diet and biomedical treatment
  • DISCLAIMER at bottom of site: none of the info here should be considered medical advice or a “cure” for autism; these ‘treatments’ are reported successful by “professionals and/or families with autism”
  • Org. has a scientific advisory board, but it’s hard to find information about the physicians from this site. Outside research is necessary.
  • Have to wade through a lot of positive personal testimonials from parents before getting to any “medical information,” info about scientific advisory board, etc. Lots of parent testimonials and some celebrity “influencers”

 

WHAT points of view are being presented? What points of view are not being presented? What evidence is used to support this claim? Does the information provided match what you need? Is it accurate?

  • Point of view: vaccines can cause autism development in children
  • Pro-vaccination research is NOT presented
  • Research is presented to support claims, but links to the research results sometimes come back to the same website (not good for credibility of info); site sometimes links out to other reputable-looking sites (need to do more research on those sites / organizations to fully evaluate).
  • Outside Google search indicates that this is an anti-vax group that conducts a media campaign w/ advertisements to make it look like they’re endorsed by more reputable organizations than they really are

 

WHEN was this written? When was the website last updated? When was the supporting research published? Does your topic require current information? Are the links on this website functional (or are they suffering from link rot)?

  • Updated 2018; Generation Rescue blog is updated regularly (regular updates bolsters credibility)
  • Research dates to 2017 and back
  • Links are functional, website seems well-maintained (lack of link rot bolsters credibility)

 

WHERE is this being published? What type of website - commercial, government, educational, non-profit? Who is paying for this content? Test the links - where do they take you? Are they taking you to other reputable websites?

  • URL: .org, advocacy organization and website
  • The organization's sponsors sell: jewelry, flax oils and fish oils, ioncleanse (one of the recommended treatments for autism, according to Generation Rescue), stem cell treatments (another recommended autism treatment)
  • DISCLAIMER on the website says that many of their treatments are not currently FDA approved and no results are guaranteed (detracts from credibility of treatments and their research)

 

WHY is this being published? Is it to persuade, inform, sell, or teach? Does the author / publisher make their intention clear? Does the point of view seem impartial and objective? Is there a political / ideological / personal bias?

  • Ostensibly published to provide support to families of kids with autism, but the site also appears to be geared strongly towards gathering money and financial support from visitors (there are lots of options to donate, become an "angel," etc.)
  • Clearly trying to persuade others of their POV (that vaccines cause autism and that autism can be cured). Personal testimonials give a view into the personal bias of the creators of hte organization and website.
  • The lack of an opposing point of view detracts from the site's overall credibility.