Assessing the Partiality of Online Content

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Where do you usually catch up on the news? How do you know that the information you are receiving through the newspaper, television, computer, or smartphone is telling you the most important things you need to know? In another Digital Tattoo tutorial article, we covered how to check whether the facts presented to you are true or not. Checking the facts presented in an article or a post are true is important. It’s also a good idea to be careful about which information you choose to consume, and who produces it. In this tutorial, we will go through the steps you should take to assess the information sources you use to make sense of the world.

Listing out your information sources

What are your information sources? Do you read the newspaper? What websites or platforms do you visit to consume information regularly? Which social media accounts have you followed to receive information?

List out all of the resources you use to consume information regularly on a worksheet similar to the one below:

You can use this template to get started, or customize your own!

How Money Affects News Bias

Now that we are aware of the sources of information that make up the input of information in our lives, we can assess whether or not these sources are impartial. This article states that journalists should remove personal bias from reporting, granting the audience the autonomy to form their own conclusions without interference. Impartiality means “not being prejudiced against any particular person, group, or point of view.” 

However, there are other factors to consider. Financial support and sponsorship can influence the bias of news organizations, as they may shape reporting to align with the interests of their backers.

Therefore, as news readers, the first step to check news bias can be finding out whether the information source is financially independent, and if not, finding out who it is financially accountable to.

This article by Vox’s Recode shows how consolidated the landscape of ownership of information-producing companies has become. The Future of Media Project, a partnership between Harvard Business School (HBS) and Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science (IQSS), lists the top investors, donors, and owners of mainstream media in Canada, allowing people to learn what companies these media outlets are affiliated with.

A good starting point to uncover financial dependencies is to check your news source’s Wikipedia page. In the information box on the right hand side of its entry, look for a field listing ‘Parent Company’ or ‘Owned by’ to find out if another organization has financial influence over the news source you are exploring.

Checking for Bias in News Content

After investigating the financial interests that may lie behind an information source, it is time to check its content for evidence of bias.. Here are two tools to help you check the media bias of information sources in print and online.

1. Media Bias Fact Check is an independent organization “dedicated to educating the public on media bias and deceptive news practices”. You can use this site to view recent fact-checking corrections across different news sources, including social media, and see bias ratings for different news outlets and journalists.

2. Checklist for Content Bias: Here are some questions you can ask yourself to determine and justify whether an information source is partial or impartial:

    1. Check the news story with other information sources. Does the information source present all perspectives of a story? Do other information sources reveal additional details that this one did not?
    2. What interests does the publisher of this story hold? Is this publisher financially dependent on another organization?
    3. Check what other people are saying about the publisher. Are they politically neutral? Do they have a political bias?
    4. Does the article use loaded words to make an appeal to emotion?
    5. Does the headline of the story intended to provoke an emotional response, rather than delivering the information in a neutral tone of voice? Beware of sensationalized headlines!

Checking the Facts: Fact-Checking Websites

Information obtained from any source should be verified with reputable sources of facts, such as fact-checking websites. Several popular sources of fact-checking information are found on these websites:



The Digital Tattoo Project encourages critical discussion on topics surrounding digital citizenship and online identity. Please feel free to post your thought in the comments section below! There are no correct answers and every person will view these topics from a different perspective. Be sure to complete the previous sections before answering the questions.

  1. What are some of the strategies that you use to make sure the news you read or watch is not biased?
  2. What news source do you trust and why?
  3. What is the political economy of the sources of information you use?
  4. How do you verify the facts presented to you in a news story?
  5. What strategies do you employ to ask if information sources may be presenting information in ways are suggesting certain conclusions?
  6. Have you ever clicked on a news story because of its headline? What part of the headline made you want to read more?

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