information literacy roman numeral 5

Mar. 26, 2012

You can often find the owner or publisher of a website by using the Whois? Database. It is sometimes helpful to know who publishes the information you are reading. (Please note example site contains racist/offensive subject matter)

A good example of why you may want to check publishing information is illustrated by this website: www.martinlutherking.org. This Web address looks innocent enough, but the information on the site itself is definitely not. We have had many teachers tell us their students have brought it to their attention when researching Martin Luther King Jr. Be forewarned the site contains racist and inappropriate content.

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We do not condone sites of this nature; however, the reality is that if a student conducts a search for Martin Luther King in Google, the martinlutherking.org site generally appears in the top five results, claiming it is a “valuable resource for students and teachers.”  Since research suggests students are most likely to choose results on or near the top of a list of results, many students are likely to click on this site.

Even though this site is blocked by many school filters, teachers may be interested in knowing what type of information their students might be accessing when researching in unfiltered environments.

Another reason why students might choose to click on this site is because of its URL, which includes the name Martin Luther King right in the Web address. It would seem the publisher has thought carefully about how to present this site and make it look appealing to young researchers.

But who has published this site and how do we find out? If you are ever unsure about the information on a Web page and want to know who owns the site or has published the material, go to www.easywhois.com.

If we continue using this site as an example, we would do the following: In the search box labeled Whois Lookup type martinlutherking.org. Click next.

You will be asked to enter a provided random number into a box. Type in the number and click next.

Whois? tells you the dates this site was created, specific contact names and addresses at which the organization is based. You also learn the name of the server, STORMFRONT.ORG. (Look to Registrant information.) The Martin Luther King site is published by a White Supremist organization called Stormfront. Notice the .org. This suggests that Stormfront.org may be a Web address on its own. (There are links to the Stormfront website on the Martin Luther King site.)

If you type this Web address into a search engine you will see the main site of the White Supremist group. A quick glance at the owner’s home page would tell anyone that this is a site from which we do not want our students reading and researching information.

Researching website owner information may not be something you do all the time, but it may be revealing if you are at all concerned about the quality of information on a site and want to know more about it.

If you wish to teach this skill to students, choose an example site that is appropriate for your age group. Two good ones to try are:
Harry Potter: www.harrypotter.com or
The Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus: http://zapatopi.net/treeoctopus.html

27 Responses to “5 Find the Publisher of a Website”

  • Brian Mull

    Let me know what you’ve tried doing, and I’ll try to help.

    Reply
    • natalie

      I was wondering if you are still checking this website. I am still confused as to how to find the publisher. When I typed in my website, no “registrant” field showed.. Only “sponsoring registrar” and “registrar”

      Reply
      • Dan November

        If a company was hired to register your web address, that company’s name will be the result. If you see a company name such as network solutions, they are the registrar of the registrant. They were hired by the true owner to take care of the registration. This is also a paid add-on feature to protect the owners identity if they are concerned about their privacy.

        Reply
  • Diana Balley

    So the name of the publisher would be next to “Sponsoring Registrar”?

    Reply
  • Brian Mull

    The sponsoring registrar is the company through which the site owner purchased the domain.

    The site owner would be Registrant.

    Reply
  • Terry Buckley

    I am amazed. I will use this from now on! I am curious now not just for my students but my family and friends as well. There is a bad case of “well it is on the internet so it must be true” in my area. I think it would be beneficial to know who the owner or publisher is of information that is often forwarded.

    Reply
  • Lisa Lipstraw

    Wow! You would think that a page like that would be something for kids to use. I had no idea.

    Reply
  • rhonda overman

    yes, it was also using the “it’s on the internet, so it must be true” idea. It’s probably a very good idea to research the owner before presenting info o the students

    Reply
  • Lori Burden

    I like the idea of explaining this to students by giving them an example of an address on a subject that interests them.

    Reply
  • Lauren

    It won’t work on whois since it is from the U.K. I still need to find the publisher for a school project.

    Reply
  • Patsy

    I know awhile back there was a website that was similar with coolmath.com. That made it very difficult to do webquests using the site and I had to make sure I gave each student a link to the various activities.

    Reply
  • Anne Sipos

    What does it mean when the sponsoring registrar is FastDomain Inc, the registrant name is Domain Privacy Service FBO Registrant, and and registrant is listed as email: [email protected]? What should be listed as the publisher / sponsor for a citation in this case?

    Reply
    • Dan November

      If a company was hired to register your web address, that company’s name will be the result. Fast Domain was hired by the true owner to take care of the registration. In some instances, this is a paid add-on feature to protect the owners identity if they are concerned about their privacy.

      Reply
  • Karri Anderson

    Awesome information. I’ve wondered how to find out about website publishers before, so I’m glad to have a website to check.

    Reply
  • Debbie Jeffcoat

    Amazing, I had no idea this existed. This will be useful to me and the students.

    Reply
  • Nancy Hill

    Oh my!!! Again, great information. I can actually assist my students and children in making a good choice in completing research online.

    Reply
  • Isabel

    Easywhois.com doesn’t work for me. I typed in matinlutherking.org but it’s not clear if it is to be searched for in DNS lookup or elsewhere.

    Reply
    • Dan November

      They have changed their language and the correct search is now “Whois Lookup”

      Reply
  • Nate Werner

    Hi, I don’t think there’s been any clear answer on who is the publisher when using WhoIs? All I found was a response to Diana Balley’s question (the response is given here)…

    “The sponsoring registrar is the company through which the site owner purchased the domain.

    The site owner would be Registrant.”

    It’s unclear if you’re saying the site owner is equivalent to the publisher in this instance or not. Can you clear this up for me?

    Reply
    • Dan November

      If a company was hired to register your web address, that company’s name will be the result. If you see a company name such as network solutions, they are the registrar of the registrant. They were hired by the true owner to take care of the registration. This is also a paid add-on feature to protect the owners identity if they are concerned about their privacy.

      Reply
  • -->
    1. Dawn Prescott says:

      My students are not having success with this site. I’ve used this to teach web literacy before, but it doesn’t work anymore. Please advise!

    2. Brian Mull says:

      Let me know what you’ve tried doing, and I’ll try to help.

    3. natalie says:

      I was wondering if you are still checking this website. I am still confused as to how to find the publisher. When I typed in my website, no “registrant” field showed.. Only “sponsoring registrar” and “registrar”

    4. Dan November says:

      If a company was hired to register your web address, that company’s name will be the result. If you see a company name such as network solutions, they are the registrar of the registrant. They were hired by the true owner to take care of the registration. This is also a paid add-on feature to protect the owners identity if they are concerned about their privacy.

    5. Dawn Prescott says:

      We were typing in “www” in front of the domain name. When we just type the domain, it works. 🙂

    6. Brian Mull says:

      Yes. You are correct. Only enter the domain name.

    7. Diana Balley says:

      So the name of the publisher would be next to “Sponsoring Registrar”?

    8. Brian Mull says:

      The sponsoring registrar is the company through which the site owner purchased the domain.

      The site owner would be Registrant.

    9. Tina Christian says:

      It is great to know that you can find out who owns a website, and if it is appropriate for my students and myself.

    10. Terry Buckley says:

      I am amazed. I will use this from now on! I am curious now not just for my students but my family and friends as well. There is a bad case of “well it is on the internet so it must be true” in my area. I think it would be beneficial to know who the owner or publisher is of information that is often forwarded.

    11. Lisa Lipstraw says:

      Wow! You would think that a page like that would be something for kids to use. I had no idea.

    12. rhonda overman says:

      yes, it was also using the “it’s on the internet, so it must be true” idea. It’s probably a very good idea to research the owner before presenting info o the students

    13. Carrie Campbell says:

      Great information!

    14. Lori Burden says:

      I like the idea of explaining this to students by giving them an example of an address on a subject that interests them.

    15. Lauren says:

      It won’t work on whois since it is from the U.K. I still need to find the publisher for a school project.

    16. Belinda says:

      Good info for students.

    17. Patsy says:

      I know awhile back there was a website that was similar with coolmath.com. That made it very difficult to do webquests using the site and I had to make sure I gave each student a link to the various activities.

    18. Anne Sipos says:

      What does it mean when the sponsoring registrar is FastDomain Inc, the registrant name is Domain Privacy Service FBO Registrant, and and registrant is listed as email: [email protected]? What should be listed as the publisher / sponsor for a citation in this case?

    19. Dan November says:

      If a company was hired to register your web address, that company’s name will be the result. Fast Domain was hired by the true owner to take care of the registration. In some instances, this is a paid add-on feature to protect the owners identity if they are concerned about their privacy.

    20. Karri Anderson says:

      Awesome information. I’ve wondered how to find out about website publishers before, so I’m glad to have a website to check.

    21. Debbie Jeffcoat says:

      Amazing, I had no idea this existed. This will be useful to me and the students.

    22. Ashley Sepulveda says:

      So cool! I can’t wait to try it out!

    23. Nancy Hill says:

      Oh my!!! Again, great information. I can actually assist my students and children in making a good choice in completing research online.

    24. Isabel says:

      Easywhois.com doesn’t work for me. I typed in matinlutherking.org but it’s not clear if it is to be searched for in DNS lookup or elsewhere.

    25. Dan November says:

      They have changed their language and the correct search is now “Whois Lookup”

    26. Nate Werner says:

      Hi, I don’t think there’s been any clear answer on who is the publisher when using WhoIs? All I found was a response to Diana Balley’s question (the response is given here)…

      “The sponsoring registrar is the company through which the site owner purchased the domain.

      The site owner would be Registrant.”

      It’s unclear if you’re saying the site owner is equivalent to the publisher in this instance or not. Can you clear this up for me?

    27. Dan November says:

      If a company was hired to register your web address, that company’s name will be the result. If you see a company name such as network solutions, they are the registrar of the registrant. They were hired by the true owner to take care of the registration. This is also a paid add-on feature to protect the owners identity if they are concerned about their privacy.

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