I address this question here as a separate FAQ because it is a question which often arises when researching Bahá'í studies online or reading articles and information about the Faith on the web, how can people be assured that they are getting reliable information, and how can they know that they have not stumbled upon a Covenant-Breaker site? (On a related topic, see a Bulletin Board discussion of how one can determine the authenticity of documents at this site.)
There is unfortunately no easy answer. This problem is actually no different than reading materials about the Bahá'í Faith in a large university library. Sizable libraries will contain a wide variety of materials, and it is common to see Bahá'í, anti-Bahá'í, Covenant-Breaker, and just generally uninformed and incorrect books all stacked side-by-side on the shelves. One can only use one's own judgement in determining what to check out and what to believe in it. The Internet is much the same, the only difference being that the percentage of uninformed material will be much higher than in a library. The Universal House of Justice has declined to set new standards and guidelines specifically for online publishing, or to apply pre-existing standards such as the practice of review to online publishing, observing instead that the friends must use their best judgement (see some of these letters online here
The problem gets trickier the larger the Internet gets and as more and more people begin expressing online their own perspectives on the Faith, which as the Faith grows tend to get more and more diverse. For many sites, it wouldn't be easy or even appropriate to label "correct" or "incorrect"; some sites by Bahá'ís contain incorrect or even unwise information, and some sites by non-Bahá'ís contain useful and reliable information. This site, too, contains some informative pieces by non-Bahá'ís and possibly some ill-informed pieces by Bahá'ís (though our editing process usually screens out incorrect material, we'll surely occasionally make mistakes of our own).
One can only hope that other sites will include a prominent note, as I have on the main page
and more thoroughly at the notes page
, that the site is not authoritative and has not been reviewed. However, very few webpage editors bother to do so. The only general counsel that can be offered is that only official websites, such as us.bahai.org
, can be considered as "authoritative." The reliability of every other website about the Bahá'í Faith must be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Having said all of the above, once one is sufficiently knowledgeable about the Bahá'í teachings and history, one can almost always tell very quickly what agendas each website or author might be promoting. As always, then, ultimately the only solution is personal education and wisdom.